Answering questions about Common Core
South Dakota schools are fully implementing new standards in English-language arts and math this year. While academic content standards are not new in South Dakota, they may be a new concept for some parents. The Q&A below provides basic information about the Common Core State Standards that educators can use when visiting with parents and other community members.
What are the Common Core State Standards?
The Common Core standards provide a clear and rigorous set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level (K-12) in two subject areas: English-language arts and math. They are called “common” because the standards are shared by 45 states that voluntarily chose to adopt them as their state standards.
The standards are research-based and aligned to expectations for college and career readiness.
How do these standards differ from previous standards?
South Dakota has had standards in various content areas for many years. The biggest difference between the Common Core standards and the state’s previous standards in ELA and math is that they promote a deeper understanding of key concepts, as well as the ability to apply knowledge.
If you would like to learn more about the six shifts associated with each content area, visit commoncore.sd.gov and follow the “What are the standards?” link.
What’s the difference between standards and curriculum?
Standards provide the framework for learning expectations at each grade level. Curriculum has to do with how the standards are taught, including instructional methods as well as the selection of instructional materials. In South Dakota, the Legislature gave the state Board of Education authority to develop standards. It is the responsibility of local school districts to develop their own curriculum.
Why do we need new standards in ELA and math?
Growing competition makes it critical that South Dakota students leave the K-12 system ready for the challenges of college and careers in the 21st century. The Common Core standards in ELA and math ask students to think critically, to problem solve, and to apply knowledge to real-world situations, which are skills that today’s employers say they are looking for in a workforce. It’s about properly preparing students for success in today’s world.
How were these standards developed?
The effort to develop common standards among the states was led by the governors and chief education leaders in the participating states. These two groups pulled together education experts from across the country to reflect current thinking in education, the realities of the classroom, and aspirations for children.
As the standards were written, educators in the participating states, including here in South Dakota, had multiple opportunities to vet the standards, crosswalk them to existing standards, and to offer feedback. As with any adoption of academic standards in South Dakota, the proposed standards were brought before the state Board of Education for review and approval. The board voted to adopt the standards in November 2010.
Where can I learn more?
The website commoncore.sd.gov is a joint effort of the South Dakota Department of Education, Associated School Boards of South Dakota, School Administrators of South Dakota, South Dakota Board of Regents, and South Dakota Education Association. The site now includes videos of several South Dakota teachers talking about the shifts associated with the new standards.