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Monday, December 3, 2012

Daunting task, but great potential for schools in Common Core switch

Remember the line from the 2004 Disney movie “Miracle” when Kurt Russell, playing 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks, gave a pre-game speech before the historic upset of the Soviet team? 

“Great moments, are born from great opportunity.”

Here’s a video that makes me laugh all the time based on that scene.

I thought of that quote when I read this article about the recent Kentucky assessment test scores where proficiency levels dropped by a third or more for elementary and middle school students. The results are significant because this is the first set of scores tied to the Common Core Standards. Most states will start taking assessments linked to the new standards by 2014.

This is a one-state sample, but experts expect this to play out similarly in other states. It will be discouraging for districts, educators and students because the bottom line will show a drop in proficiency levels as they apparently move to more rigorous standards.

But if you think about it, this does present a huge opportunity. As districts and states are already preparing for the change, they should be motivated to get the most out of students, especially if the Common Core Standards are tougher than what they are doing right now. Think of it as an “achievement wake-up” call. It’s a major challenge for schools and teachers.

Even if proficiency levels lag or drop initially, if districts are pushing themselves and their students to measure up to tougher standards, the students will benefit in the long run.

In our daily conversations with districts in a number of states, the switch to the Common Core is in the forefront of their minds. It’s one aspect that makes it critical that districts are using as much data as they can on how students are performing to prepare not only for the change in standards but to give teachers the most effective tools for daily instruction.

It’s a huge challenge. It will be difficult. But it is such a great opportunity that can result in so much more than one “great moment.” It will drastically improve schools in nearly every state and ensure that students are better prepared than they ever have been for college and entering the work force.

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