In a supplement to its April 25, 2012 edition, Education Week provided a special report on the status of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The standards were initiated in June 2009 and finalized a year later. They were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts across the country to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare students for college and the workforce. Perhaps spurred by federal financial incentives, states began rapidly adopting the standards in 2010; to date, all but four states have embraced them. According to Education Week, teachers in many states, accustomed to teaching from their respective, often less rigorous, state standards, are being challenged to develop new curricula and instructional materials adjusted to the new standards. “Without good instructional materials, the common core standards would be hamstrung.”
Teachers who work with students who are English language learners (ELL) may face even greater challenges in implementing the common core standards. Education Week reported that language-acquisition experts say that the new academic expectations for ELL “require much more sophisticated uses of language than the mishmash of standards that have been in use for years across the states.” Instruction for ELL, the fast-growing subgroup of students in the U.S., will have to include how to read and comprehend complex texts and to construct and convey arguments in writing. According to Education Week, a number of efforts are underway to develop tools and resources to help ensure that ELL have the same access to rigorous instruction as their native English-speaking peers.
Education Week stated that some districts and states are increasingly turning to two special education learning tools to help implement the common core standards for all students. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) involves creating lessons and instructional materials flexible enough to accommodate students’ different ways of learning. Response to Intervention (RtI) involves early identification of students’ learning difficulties and implementing focused teaching interventions as appropriate. Some experts believe that, because curricula have to be changed for the common core standards anyway, the timing is perfect for states and districts to begin more broadly implementing UDL and RtI strategies, which have proven beneficial for students with disabilities. Some believe if all students are involved in UDL and RtI, there may be less focus on whether an individual student has a disability; however, concerns remain that the performance of students with disabilities may continue to be viewed as the root cause of a school’s overall poor academic performance.
Education Week’s special report Math, Literacy, & Common Standards is available online at www.edweek.org.