Opinion
Curriculum Opinion

Standards: A Critical Need for K-16 Collaboration

By Brad C. Phillips & Bruce Vandal — November 01, 2011 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The time for the Common Core State Standards is now. With U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s recent announcement that the federal Department of Education will relax enforcement of the No Child Left Behind Act in states in exchange for the adoption of rigorous college and career standards, it is safe to say that many states will simply formalize their commitments to the standards as part of their waiver requests, opening the door to the full implementation of the standards. That could—and should—be a good thing.

However, a survey released earlier this year found that barely half the school districts in states that have adopted the common standards have begun the intensive process of aligning their teaching to the standards. And, no one seems to be asking whether colleges and universities are considering the standards and how they relate to college-level work. This is more important than ever, particularly given the level of authority granted to postsecondary institutions to approve the standards in the NCLB waiver-request guidelines. For that reason, states will need to move quickly to get postsecondary institutions on board with the common core. In addition, state legislators and other community leaders who have been standing on the sidelines of the common-core debate are finally going to have their say.

BRIC ARCHIVE

But the implied connection of the common core to federal accountability requirements may empower many to question the standards as a further imposition of government control. To build broad commitment to the standards, there should be proven models that show how the common core can facilitate greater alignment between postsecondary education and K-12 education. The result would be a reduced need for remediation for struggling students, increased college-success rates, and faster degree attainment.

How Do We Know This? The English Curriculum Alignment Project, or ECAP, in San Diego offers some important lessons for the thousands of school districts nationwide that will be held accountable by the common-core standards by the 2013-14 school year. ECAP, which launched in 2004 and with which we are both familiar, is an intensive, groundbreaking effort to align what is taught in high school with what students will need to know and be able to do in college.

Simply having a standard in place is no assurance that higher education and K-12 teaching are aligned to the standard and to the expectations for college-level work."

Together, high school teachers and college faculty members participating in ECAP looked through years of transcript information made available through the California Partnership for Achieving Student Success. Examining student performance over time, San Diego educators learned that students who took advanced English courses through 12th grade needed the same level of remediation in community college as students who stopped taking English courses after 10th grade.

Disturbed by this finding, teachers dug deeper for the source of students’ collegiate struggles. After sharing lesson plans and curricula, they discovered that high school teachers taught mostly literature, focusing on characters and story lines in classic works of fiction. Meanwhile, English instructors at the community college involved in ECAP were teaching students about argumentation and writing clearly to inform, persuade, and describe—key skills needed to succeed at work, think critically, and contribute to the community.

Recognizing this startling disconnect, San Diego teachers worked to better align their teaching with college expectations. Standards-based high school lesson plans were developed that helped students organize content and write clearly with a deep understanding of genre, audience, purpose, and argument. The thoughtful blend of the literary and rhetorical values of the English-literature classroom and an emphasis on rigorous writing, reading, and critical-thinking skills put students on track for success in college and career. It is an approach right in line with the common-core standards, which put greater emphasis on writing and nonfiction.

Avoiding a ‘Rude Awakening.’ We shouldn’t underestimate the task of getting our high school and college-level teachers to connect their work to the common core and of routinely monitoring student-performance information. State leaders also need to understand that it will take hard work to foster collaboration between K-12 and higher education. The distance between adopting the standards at the state level and actually putting them into practice in the classroom can be measured in how well the work of teachers from both levels of education fits together. Simply having a standard in place is no assurance that higher education and K-12 teaching are aligned to the standard and to the expectations for college-level work.

We’re in for a rude awakening if the work of implementing the standards is not done now in states. The shock will hit after the first set of results is announced from the implementation of the two common-core-aligned assessments being developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. States that are caught flat-footed by these results will face a perilous political environment that could undermine the common core before it even has a chance to transform classrooms across the country.

The enthusiastic and imperative work of translating the broad standards into daily lessons should be given the same meticulous attention that developing the standards and gaining state approval received. Gathering the necessary input and support required a herculean effort by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve.

We must not waste this golden opportunity to create a standards thoroughfare between K-12 and higher education. It is the necessary next step in collectively raising our standards for student success and developing the next-generation education system we need to compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 02, 2011 edition of Education Week as Standards: A Golden Opportunity for K-16 Collaboration

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Outdoor Learning: The Ultimate Student Engagement Hack?
Outdoor learning offers a host of evidence-based benefits for students. One Virginia school serves as an example how.
7 min read
Students from Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., release brook trout they’ve grown from eggs in their classroom into Passage Creek at Elizabeth Furnace Recreational Area in the George Washington National Forest in Fort Valley, Va. on April 23.
Students from Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., release brook trout that they’ve grown from eggs in their classroom at a creek in Fort Valley, Va., on April 23.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Curriculum Opinion Classical Education Is Taking Off. What’s the Appeal?
Classical schooling is an apprenticeship to the great minds and creators of the past, enabling students to develop their own thinking.
9 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Curriculum Download For Earth Day, Try These Green Classroom Activities (Downloadable)
16 simple ideas for teachers and their students.
Earth Day Downloadable 042024
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Photos PHOTOS: Inside an AP African American Studies Class
The AP African American studies course has sparked national debate since the pilot kicked off in 2022. Here's a look inside the classroom.
1 min read
Students listen to a lesson on Black fraternities and sororities during Ahenewa El-Amin’s AP African American Studies class at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., on March 19, 2024.
Students listen to a lesson on Black fraternities and sororities during Ahenewa El-Amin’s AP African American Studies class at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky., on March 19, 2024.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week