ACT’s Report on the Common Core State Standards
Read ACT’s report, “A First Look at the Common Core and College and Career Readiness.” Using its existing student assessment results, ACT estimated how high school students would measure up against the Common Core State Standards. ACT is careful about its research so it offered appropriate disclaimers. In the end, it provided a comprehensive look to see what percentage of 11th grade students would reach college and career readiness levels of achievement as described in the common core standards for English, literacy, and mathematics.
The bottom line—only one third to one half of 11th grade students would demonstrate proficiency according to these standards.
Some will react by saying, “The standards are too high.” Others will say, “Now we know how bad our schools are.” I say, “Let’s get on with the important work at hand.” The standards are not too high and our schools aren’t awful. It’s just that our schools are stuck with a 90-year-old instructional and organizational model. Today’s schools are not designed to help all students reach college and career readiness requirements. They are designed to identify a proportion of high school students who should be offered the opportunity to attend college. That approach worked when I was growing up in the last century—it doesn’t work now.
I support the voluntary Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) lead by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association (see my previous post on the Common Core here). The sooner we embrace compelling education standards that prepare students for college and career, the sooner we will create student assessments that don’t rely upon rote memorization of factual content, and the sooner we will replace boring teacher-led instruction with engaging work that challenges students.
The ACT report states, “While each state’s transition from its current education standards to the Common Core State Standards will be different, our preliminary research suggests that these transitions are not likely to be a matter of incremental change. Rather, such transitions fundamentally reframe what we expect students and school systems to accomplish.”
So let’s not point fingers or look to assign blame. Let’s keep our eyes focused firmly on important goals that can fundamentally change how teachers teach and students learn. For me, Michelangelo’s quote from over 500 years ago applies: “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we missed it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”