News Feature

The Peninsula
Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 5, 2013
Union 93 schools
Too soon to tell the success of the “common core”

by Anne Berleant

Two big—and unconnected—things happened in local education last year: the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the grading of schools by the Maine Department of Education.

But schools won’t know until Spring 2015, at the earliest, just how well students are learning the “common core” because that’s when school testing will be aligned with the new standards.

Students’ skills in math, reading and writing are assessed by the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP), given in October. Schools received letter grades last spring based on the MDOE’s interpretation of those scores. Union 93 schools received grades from an A (Surry), to a B (Blue Hill) to a C (Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot—which missed a B by 1.5 points).

“There is no way to know if the switch to the CCSS has had an effect on the NECAPs,” said Rachel Kohrman Ramos, curriculum coordinator for Union 93, because the new standards had been implemented just a short time before the testing.

For now, success of the program, said Ramos, will be measured “through teacher, administrator and parent feedback.”

Last year Maine joined 45 states in implementing Common Core Standards in reading, writing and math for first through 12th grade students. This year, schools will add the Next Generation Science Standards.

The standards were designed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices—bipartisan, nonprofit organizations. How to teach them is set by local teachers and school administrators.

Ramos, hired by Union 93 to implement the CCSS, formed a team of experienced teachers as “trainers throughout the school union” to help all teachers begin teaching the standards.

Blue Hill and Penobscot were pilot schools for “common core”-based testing last spring, but Ramos said she had not seen the results. All Union 93 students will take the new tests in Spring of 2015.

The underlying goal of the “common core” is to raise American student performance as compared to other countries through teaching critical thinking and analysis. Its intent is to better prepare students for college and careers through a national standard of learning goals and expectations.

Education research and reform organizations from the Broad Foundation to Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance rank American students far below the top 10 in reading, writing, math and high school graduation rates among industrialized countries.