The Anchorage School District does not want to wait on the State of Alaska to overhaul its educational standards any longer. Administrators are recommending the School Board instead adopt national standards. They’re called ‘Common Core’ Standards, and 45 states already have them.
Administrators say the new national standards would help them meet their goals of boosting graduation rates and getting all students college and work ready. Superintendent Carol Comeau said during a press conference Tuesday — that’s important in a city like Anchorage, where there is a large transient student population.
“One of our frustrations that we hear all the time is that when people come to us, whether they’re in the military or they come to us from different oil companies or they’ve moved around the country or frankly the world, they want to know how the Anchorage school district stacks up … and I honestly can’t tell them how we compare,” Comeau said.
The Common Core Standards would change that adopting the new standards would also spell out what students are expected to learn at each grade level – and make it easier for students to transition in and out of other ‘Common Core’ districts. The state has its own standards, which the school board has been following, but Comeau says they’re just too low.
“From National perspective, our standards are lower than other states. The one most often cited is Massachusetts and Virginia who have very rigorous standards and they have for years. And when you compare us against those kind of states we don’t rise very high and we think our students deserve to be taught at a higher level,” Comeau said.
The Common Core Standards are for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects in grades K-12. Administrators say they will require an increasing interdisciplinary approach for teachers in the classroom with a focus on more critical thinking at a younger age.There was a call to adopt the standards at the recent ‘Mayor’s Educational Summit’. And, incoming superintendent Jim Browder supports the move The State has been in the process of raising its standards for some time, but the process has been slow. School Board President Gretchen Guess says the district just couldn’t afford to wait on the state any longer.
“With the state changing their standards we were gonna have to change anyway and we were goon a have to spend those resources making a change. So the question is do we change to where we think we’re gonna go or do change to where the state is and then, and my prediction is in three year have to make a change again,” Guess said.
Darla Jones is the Curriculum Director for the district. She explains how the Common Core Standards will be different than existing state standards, for example in grade six.
“In grade six one of the writing standards in the common core specifies that a student will be able to create a piece of writing and type a minimum of three pages in a single setting. Our State standard in contrast, asks them to create a piece of writing, it doesn’t specify with that level of detail,” Jones said.
If the school board accepts the recommendation, the new standards could be adopted as early as this summer and they could start being integrated into classrooms this fall. Changes to math classes will likely be first, since that’s an area the district has already identified needs serious improvement. Anchorage School District Administrators will formally recommend the district adopt the Common Core Standards at the next school board meeting on March 22.