States that adopted Common Core standards in the beginning now have the perspective for evaluating effectiveness of Common Core. With a track record of several years, they can determine how effective the standards are, and get feedback from teachers.
The Common Core standards are new educational initiatives being adopted in schools around the country that teach students to think critically – to look for evidence – rather than rely on rote memorization of formulas and facts.
In 2010, Kentucky became the first state in the nation to adopt the standards. It also led the way in developing and administering Common Core tests. Students took the new tests in 2011-12.
Three years after the adoption and two years after the first round of tests, though, is the Common Core working in Kentucky?
Many teachers here say yes, although test scores haven’t proven it yet. Others say it will likely be a few more years before a verdict can be issued.
Kentucky First to Adopt Math and Reading Standards
Kentucky adopted the standards in math and reading three years ago as part of an educational overhaul that started with the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2009. The bill called for the revision of the state’s assessment and accountability system to improve college and career readiness.
Now adopted by more than 40 states – Ohio plans to implement Common Core in the 2014-15 school year, with the first tests delivered the spring of 2015 – the Common Core lays out what K-12 students are expected to learn in each grade with the goal of shaping a college- or career-ready pool of graduates.
The standards are supposed to be the same (or “common”) from state to state and are heavy on critical thinking, problem-solving and the use of technology. It’s up to the schools to decide how to teach and how to test the standards.
Kentucky was unique in creating its own tests. Elsewhere, two different consortia of states are still working on developing tests that are aligned to the Common Core.
First Year Testing Troubles
The first year Kentucky students were tested under the new system, however, proficiency rates fell by more than a third, a result officials had predicted. They said it will take a while for everyone to get used to the new system.
The next year, Kentucky’s performance improved, but not as much as Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday would have liked. He said math continues to be a problem for some grades.
“While we did make an improvement, we’d like to have seen it go a little faster,” he said in September when the test results came out. “We’re very, very concerned about our math performance, especially in middle school and in high school.”
Part of the problem is that students as young as eighth grade are now being tested on algebra concepts – something that previously wasn’t taught until high school. The teaching hasn’t quite caught up, Holliday said.
Test alignment has been a problem elsewhere, too. New York was right beside Kentucky in implementing its own Common Core tests. Scores fell. The state’s education department was lambasted. Critics said the process was too rushed and the tests not well designed. Thousand of parents refused to let their children take the tests.