Christine Lopes Metcalfe: Giving Students the Tools for Success
Thursday, February 27, 2014
What exactly are the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)? Adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C., CCSS are new, universal guidelines for what students should master at every grade level to graduate with the skills they need to thrive after high school. Prior to the adoption of these standards, what one student was expected to know by fourth grade in one state could have been completely different than what was expected from a fourth-grader in another state. But why is that important? States across the country had a variety of different standards and benchmarks that ranged from high to low. With the bar equalized, we now know that students across the country are being held to the same rigorous standards that are critical to preparing them to compete with each other and globally in a 21st century economy.
New standards was a state led initiative
Creation of the new standards was a state-led initiative started in 2007 by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Part of that process included teachers, parents, school administrators, state leaders, and experts from across the country providing input in the development of the standards. The Common Core standards are clear, consistent and actually consist of fewer standards that allow educators to dive deeper into content and critical thinking. The Common Core State Standards are not designed to tell teachers what to teach – they are an outline of what students should know. This is reflected in a 2013 survey that showed 77% of teachers support the Common Core.
States that voluntary adopted CCSS were also able to adapt parts of the standards to better fit their state’s needs and allow districts to chose and create their own curriculums to match. The Common Core focuses on developing skills employers want and employees need to be competitive: critical thinking, not just memorizing facts and figures.
In addition to the need for common standards, Rhode Island is among the states that need more rigorous benchmarks to ensure students are ready for their post-secondary challenges, whether in college or career. Rhode Island high school students often graduate unprepared to succeed in college: in the 2012-13 school year, 69 percent of the students had to enroll in at least one remedial course at CCRI, costing students around $5.4 million —all without earning college credit .
Changing future outcomes
The need for students to succeed in life after high school with some type of post-secondary training has never been more crucial for Rhode Island. With unemployment at 9%, the very highest in the country and a growing skills gap, the first place we must look to change future outcomes is in our schools. According to the new report “Rhode to Work,” a legislative action plan for workforce development created by the Rhode Island Senate, “more than 50% of jobs in 2020 will require some form of post-secondary education or training. ” With only around 30% of Rhode Islanders possessing a bachelor’s degree or higher and job growth in middle and skilled level jobs growing faster than entry-level and lower skilled work, the imperative is clear: Rhode Island needs higher standards and better outcomes from its education system.
Change is never easy and can be daunting to many, but it’s necessary in our state right now. By adopting and implementing Common Core, we are one step closer to giving our students the skills not just to succeed in their own careers but to revitalize Rhode Island’s economy and put our state back to work.
Related Slideshow: Rhode Island School Superintendent Salaries
Below are the salaries of school superintendents in Rhode Island, starting with the lowest paid. Data is for 2013 and was provided by the state Division of Municipal Finance. Where relevant, longevity pay is also listed. All school superintendents are listed except those in the independent school districts in Foster and Glocester. The combined Foster-Glocester district is included. In order to provide a more informed basis for comparing superintendents from one community to another, the annual student enrollment and total expenditures are also listed. (The data is for fiscal year 2012, the latest available from the state Department of Education.)
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