New standards

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said she fully expects standardized test scores in the state to drop when the Common Core State Standards are implemented, but that doesn’t mean that kids in the state will be achieving any less.

“We have set the bar higher and we’ve raised our expectations,” said Baesler, who spoke Tuesday to members of the Phi Delta Kappa Northwest North Dakota Chapter at Minot High School-Magic City Campus.

The state will be implementing the Common Core standards this school year and the next school year, with the new assessment based on the Common Core scheduled to be implemented in the spring of 2015.

Common Core standards are a set of national education standards adopted by 45 states, including North Dakota. The standards set guidelines for what concepts kids should learn at certain grade levels, though different school districts are free to determine how and what materials are used to teach those concepts. Baesler said North Dakota teachers have had input into the standards and the assessment process. Nationwide, the Common Core standards were developed during discussions between state education departments and private groups. It is sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

At present, the English and mathematics standards are being completed; up next are the science and social studies standards. Baesler told Phi Delta Kappa members that the Common Core standards have been met with opposition in some quarters. She has received several e-mails from parents critical of the English language content standards. Two such e-mails to her office claim that the Common Core standards advocatethat first grade classes be taught about abortion. Baesler said she expects implementation of the science standards to be a “real bear” because of the sensitivity surrounding teaching of the theory of evolution.

Despite some push back, Baesler told the educators Tuesday that the Common Core standards are more rigorous and will better prepare students for college and the workforce. It will also be of benefit to students who transfer to a new school system from out of state, since Common Core standards will require that the same concepts be taught at the same grade level. In the past, different school systems often taught concepts at different grade levels.

“It is a game changer for our next generation of students,” she said. She added that Common Core standards will require kids to develop and demonstrate reasoning, problem solving and collaboration skills more so than they do now.

Implementation of the Common Core standards will also require new ways of teaching and it may take some time to adjust, she said. She said the state likely won’t see the complete benefits of the Common Core standards on the education system until this year’s class of kindergartners have graduated from high school.

However, she noted that there will be long term benefits. She noted that efforts to boost the high school graduation rate have been successful. Many more students now graduate from high school than in the 1960s.