January 10, 2013
By Jared Costanzo, President and Founder, The Student Voice Project, and Former Student Representative, Washington State Board of Education
Going through the public education system in Washington State proved to me that the status quo in education is effective with students who are inspired to do better every day, students who know they need an education to help find almost any job anymore. But when a student struggles every day and cannot catch up because the standards are not clear to them or their teacher, the system fails. The standards we expect students to meet need to change in order to improve our education system.
During my two-year term on the Washington State Board of Education, I was introduced to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and what they mean for students. Although the Washington Board didn’t have sole authority to adopt the Standards, we still discussed what the CCSS would mean and how they would impact students. I thought finally, students who followed my graduating class would be better prepared for college and understand what the standards of success were.
The CCSS aim to support an effective system that targets the achievement gap and increases student learning nationwide. Washington created plans to implement the Standards by focusing more on the curriculum and teaching students what they need to be prepared for the next grade level. There, the focus will be on developing, enhancing, and integrating literacy skills across social studies, science, and other technical subjects; this is crucial in order to decrease the achievement gap and to better educate students. This is what will happen when states implement the CCSS: with a core definition of standards, there will be no questions asked on what should be expected from students and, just as importantly, students will know what is expected of them.
The CCSS may revolutionize how we are teaching students. Instead of teaching to a test, the CCSS encourages teachers to teach students the actual curriculum outlined in these Standards. These Standards include focused integration of the “staircase” – increased complexity in reading levels – which steadily enhances the students’ reading ability by every grade level in order to better prepare students for college- and career-level reading. The Standards also include a focus on writing, speaking, listening, and even an enhancement in mathematical skills.
To close achievement gaps, providing a higher-quality education is a step in the right direction. Every parent, teacher, and student should know what the standards of success are. If they do, it will help ensure students are learning at every grade level so they will be better prepared for life after high school, whether that is college or the workforce.