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Sunday, Dec. 3
The Indiana Daily Student


Proposed math, English standards released

Math and English instruction in the United States moved a step closer to uniform — and more rigorous — standards Wednesday as drafts of new national guidelines were released.

Supporters of the project led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hope the lists of things kids should learn at each grade level will replace a patchwork of systems across the country.

The effort is expected to lead to standardization of textbooks and testing and make learning easier for students who move to a new state.

The federal government recently opened bidding for $350 million to work on new national tests that would be given to students in states that adopt the national standards.

People involved in the effort endorsed by 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia said the new standards will raise expectations of student achievement in some states and be in line with the educational expectations of top-performing states and countries.

Unlike most efforts to revise standards, this document was built on evidence, not consensus, said Chris Minnich, CCSSO director of standards and assessment.
States using consensus-building have not made the tough decisions about what should be in the standards, he said.

Some have criticized the process, saying adoption of the new standards will not be voluntary.

“First they tried to tie it to Race to the Top money ... now they’re trying to tie it to Title I funds,” Texas’ commissioner of education Robert Scott said.

President Barack Obama told the nation’s governors last month that he wants to make Title I dollars for public schools contingent on adoption of college- and career-ready reading and math standards, but the president said the states would not be required to adopt the coalition’s standards.

Texas and Alaska are the only states not participating; Texas also opted out of the federal Race to the Top competition for $4.35 billion for education reform.

The public is invited to comment on the proposed new national standards until April 2, and the developers hope to publish final education goals for K-12 math and English in May.

The changes are not dramatic; Minnich said the main improvement is clarity and focus. Each grade will have fewer goals in each subject area, but each goal goes deeper; the goals are written in plain English with little or no educational jargon; and some learning goals might start to show up earlier than expected. For example, second graders now are expected to add and subtract triple-digit numbers. Fractions start in third grade, and kindergartners are expected to learn to count to 100.

Grade placement of particular topics in both the math and English standards was based on state and international comparisons and the collective professional judgment of educators, researchers and mathematicians.

Cathy Seeley, senior fellow at the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas, said she doesn’t think making kids learn things earlier translates into higher standards.

“It’s not that they’re learning it well but too late. It’s that they’re not learning it well,” Seeley said.

The development team worked to resolve differences between those who would like to see math instruction focus on computation and those who prefer the discovery method that focuses on higher-level problem solving.

The draft report also addresses the debate about how much should be expected from immigrants learning English — they should be held to the same standards but given more time and instructional support.

Students with disabilities should also be challenged to master as many of the standards as they can, the document argues.

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