Originally Published: April 25, 2014 6:03 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Adoption of the federal Arizona College and Career Ready "common core" standards is already underway in Yavapai County, and AIMS testing for school children will be phased out at the end of the school year. But don't expect high scores right off the bat.
Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter said he's expecting a drop in state scoring during the common core implementation period, particularly in the first year.
"It's to be expected. We're aware of that and we want students to be aware of that. Let's take it in stride and the trend should be upward from there," Carter said.
The new standards, Carter said, include a component of practical application, meaning students will need a working knowledge of course material, rather than simply memorizing answers. Details and procedures for the common core standards have not been finalized by the state, but should be in place by the end of May.
"The new standards are going to be fewer and much more robust. There are fewer of them because the expectation is that we now drill down deeper," Carter said. "In the old days we would teach a formula. If you could give me back a formula, you're good."
One of the biggest things Carter says he hears from students are complaints about learning things they don't think they will need to use outside school.
"The new standards require that students know less volume, but on a deeper level to apply what they know," Carter said. "For educators, that's huge. It's also huge in that they now have to teach differently. Students have to learn differently, so that interaction with parents is going to be substantially different."
Carter himself was involved in the development of the common core standards. He served on one of the teams that helped write the national math standards.
"I think there are people who believe the federal government handed these standards down," Carter said. "My actual work was in reviewing what state teams had done in regard to those standards and providing feedback. That model went to the state. The state could accept it, reject it, or to some point modify those things. We've been in this process for five years. The local district has virtually total control on the implementation."
Helping districts raise awareness for the common core standard is the nonprofit group Expect More Arizona. Representatives for Expect More Arizona have already met with a number of organizations and parent groups throughout the state, said Expect More Arizona Community Mobilizer Jennifer Hernandez.
"We want to ensure that people have the facts about education and particularly about the Arizona College and Career Ready standards," Hernandez said.
Besides their work in college and career ready standards, Expect More Arizona also advocates for early literacy funding and other issues.
While AIMS testing ends this year, districts have already started implementing the new college and career ready standards, including schools in the Prescott Unified School District, said Expect More Arizona Vice President of Public Engagement Christie Silverstein.
"The standards were adopted in 2010. In 2011, some districts in the state started to work on aligning lesson plans and shifting teaching practices," Silverstein said. "The Department of Education rolled it out in stages. In the earlier grades it's been implemented for longer. This academic year was actually the first year for full implementation."
Expect More Arizona started as a public awareness campaign in 2009. It became a non-profit organization, with a board of directors, in 2013. The organization, which works closely with the Arizona Department of Education, receives a majority of their funding from foundations and educational organizations throughout the state.
For more information and to request information on the common core standards, visit the Expect More Arizona website at expectmorearizona.org.
Follow reporter Patrick Whitehurst on Twitter @pwdcourier