When the The U.S. Department of Education granted Georgia’s waiver request to be excused from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, administrators at Atlanta Public Schools and across the state were even more optimistic that their transition to the Common Core Curriculum would improve performance and help students achieve attainable standards.
The NCLB waiver gives the states the freedom to set their own student-achievement goals and design their own interventions for failing schools. In exchange for this flexibility, the department required each of the states to provide a viable alternative to NCLB, which included:
- adopting college- and career-ready standards, setting new targets for improving achievement among all students,
- focusing on 15 percent of their most troubled schools
- creating guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance.
Disadvantages of No Child Left Behind
The purpose of NCLB was to ensure that no child attended a failing school, and the expectation was that all students would perform on grade level in reading/language arts and mathematics by 2014.
State, district and school accountability for improving student performance increased significantly under NCLB. And since there was no national standard for student assessment, each state was permitted to choose its own standards for assessment and develop its own accountability system based on annual student test results. In Georgia, the primary indicators of student performance were the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) and the Georgia High School Graduation Tests (GHSGT).
The federal government provided funding to schools that could successfully show Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), while schools that missed AYP for two consecutive years were labeled “in need of improvement” –a designation that resulted in the school receiving specific consequences, and one that many believed unfairly discredited and stigmatized schools. This created the inherent problem of educators around the country “teaching to the test” and students in every state memorizing numerous facts to pass tests.
A New Accountability System
As part of the NCLB waiver agreement, states agreed to raise standards, improve accountability, and undertake essential reforms to improve teacher effectiveness. So, while Georgia will still test its students annually, the NCLB waiver allows the state to move away from focusing solely on the state’s minimal competency tests. Instead, Georgia will use the Georgia College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) as the new measure of school and student achievement. Many believe that the CCRPI evaluates performance much better than NCLB, because it uses several different variables rather than a single test to measure achievement.
The Common Core Connection
The Common Core Curriculum Initiative satisfies the NCLB’s waiver’s requirement to raise standards and the initiative is consistent with CCRPI . It also responds to complaints that the NCLB standards could never be realistically attained. And while educators previously felt forced to focus on recall and breadth, the Common Core Standards Initiative pushes educators to focus on critical thinking and depth of skills. It shifts the focus from group test scores to individual performance standards that demonstrate the developing skills and proficiencies students need for post-secondary success.
The initiative provides states with rigorous, consistent standards for K-12 English language arts and math, and spells out what children are expected to learn in those subjects so that when they graduate from high school they are able to succeed in entry-level college courses and in workforce training programs.
Consistent and Uniform Learning Nationwide
This means that teachers and parents will have more consistency and clarity about what students across the country are expected to learn. Until now, states have made individual determinations about academic standards and learning expectations, which have resulted in students at the same grade level learning and achieving at different levels from state to state.
Utilizing consistent standards will make learning more uniform across the country, ensure more consistent exposure to learning materials and experiences and provide appropriate benchmarks for all students, no matter where they live.
Common Core has already been adopted by 48 states and the District of Columbia. The curriculum provides a framework that is re-engineering public education by producing graduates who are prepared, tech-savvy and equipped for success in college, career and beyond.
For more information on The Common Core Standards Initiative, visit www.corestandards.org