Though we normally stress the fun aspects of math for young learners, we know a lot of parents are concerned, and maybe a bit confused, about the new Common Core math standards. Anu Malipatil, a math curriculum expert who’s been advising us on Common Core, stepped up to explain these new standards and the related drop in test scores.
So what’s all the hoopla in the news about Common Core standards? Last week, New York State announced results for the new Common Core-aligned state tests in Math and English Language Arts (ELA) for grades 3-8. The data showed a big drop in student proficiency rates compared to previous years’ results, leading to a slew of information that can be tough to wade through. Indeed, the results showed that New York City, where only 26.9% of students were proficient in Math and 26.4% in ELA, has its work cut out for it if it is going to prepare its students to be career and college-ready. For Bedtime Math subscribers and readers, we’ll lay out what led to the drop in scores so that parents and educators can have a clear picture of just what the new scores mean.
Up until now, students have been passing state tests with relatively high rates of proficiency. Passing the state test in previous years meant students were on track for high school graduation. There was a mismatch, however, in the level of difficulty on those state tests and what was expected from those students once they arrived in college. Nearly eight out of 10 high school graduates were unprepared for the coursework at the university level, which forced them to enroll in remedial classes.
As a result of this mismatch, New York and 44 other states adopted the Common Core State Standards. These research-based standards articulate grade-level expectations that aim to prepare students to be successful in college and their careers, and to compete globally. The Common Core Math Standards demand deeper conceptual understanding of fewer key topics, more sophisticated mathematical reasoning, critical thinking, and problem solving. These changes represent a drastic shift from old standards that covered a variety of topics in each grade level at a surface level. More rigorous standards mean more rigorous assessments, and these re-designed, more difficult assessments led to lower scores for the vast majority of schools across the state.
For more information on how to better prepare your students for the challenges of the Common Core Math Standards, start by checking out the performance tasks posted at Illustrative Mathematics, at www.illustrativemathematics.org.
If you have questions about this, please leave them in the comments below and we will try to address them in a future post.