Expert educates District 97 on Common Core standards

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

A national education expert spoke at Irving School on April 29 about the new Common Core standards being implemented in District 97 and other schools across the country.

Sandra Alberti of the nonprofit Student Achievement Partners spoke before an audience of about 180 people, mostly fellow educators, about Common Core. Illinois is among 45 states that are adopting the new standards, which cover elementary, middle and high schools. Common Core, as described by supporters, is described as a more rigorous way of learning and teaching English and math.

"The Common Core standards are designed to move beyond 'can they answer the question' to 'do they understand?'" Alberti said at Irving event. "The new English language arts standards ask kids to read like detectives and write like reporters, citing evidence for their conclusions. The math standards are focused on fewer concepts giving educators the opportunity and the time to promote deeper comprehension."

Common Core is already being implemented in D97 schools. The Oak Park district hosted teacher workshops last summer with River Forest District 90 to learn more about the new standards.

"Teaching the whole child" is another aspect of Common Core, which looks to prepare children for college and careers. By 2014, schools will being using a new assessment test throughout the year to gauge students' improvement under Common Core.

"The ultimate goal of these research-based standards is success for every one of our children—not success on test taking, but success in life as adults," said Libby Paul, a D97 parent, during her introduction of Alberti.

Student Achievement Partners is one of the organizations that helped develop Common Core, which the states have voluntarily adopted. It is not a federal education program, supporters stress.

The D97 board and administration have endorsed Common Core, as has D90.

Supporters maintain it's geared more toward improving the way students learn versus memorizing or recalling facts. Supporters also note that Common Core is a tool to help address academic achievement gaps. Concerns, however, about the standards include whether a teacher's creativity will be stifled as result of using it. Supporters insist that Common Core adds to what teachers are already doing well.

The Common Core assessment is expected to replace existing state standardized tests starting in 2014.

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