With the widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards, public education in the United States is poised to take a major step forward in readying the next generation of Americans for success in higher education and the workforce. Implementation of the standards, as currently planned in 45 states and the District of Columbia, also means that the vast majority of students will soon be held to the highest set of English language arts and math literacy expectations in U.S. history. Many education reforms have had the potential to help propel students toward future success, but adoption of the Common Core State Standards is poised to be the most significant education reform in decades, because it is the nation’s first attempt to provide a comprehensive roadmap for educators to help them bring all children to college and career readiness. Therefore, it is fundamentally important that its implementation is thoughtful and precise. Educators and students will need to implement a variety of strategies to meet the sharp rise in expectations for teaching and learning. Redesigning schools with significantly more time for both student learning and teacher professional development and collaboration is one significant way to make certain that Common Core implementation is successful.
Gaining a realistic understanding of students’ performance levels, meeting students where they currently are, and raising them to new heights are the tasks at hand and will require more intensive and time-consuming teaching and learning than schools commonly provide now. Disadvantaged students—often low-income students, students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities—were frequently held to a lower set of standards in the past and will need the greatest focus. They are also the students who benefit the most from well-designed schools that use significantly more and better learning time for both students and teachers. Americans’ willingness to break out of the box of the 180-day, 6.5 hours-per-day school schedule can help with the transition to the Common Core State Standards, especially when targeting schools serving high concentrations of disadvantaged students.
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