Common Core State Standards Initiative: An OPRFHS Overview

What are the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?
In 2010, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopted new math and English Language Arts standards for K-12 education. It was the first significant change in setting knowledge and skill standards for Illinois schools since 1997. By adopting the Illinois State Learning Standards, incorporating the Common Core, ISBE has set targets for schools in their preparation of Illinois students for participation in college and the workforce in a competitive global economy.

For OPRFHS, the Common Core standards establish learning benchmarks for students in grades 9-10 and 11-12.  The new standards are fewer in number but deeper in the kinds of skills and knowledge they ask students and teachers to address in the high school curriculum. The first step for our administrators and teachers has been to determine where we are already addressing common core standards and where we need to incorporate the standards into our courses.

What are some concerns about the CCSS?
Many people are concerned that the new English standards will restrict what teachers can teach in English and social studies classrooms. The new standards do not require one set of texts over another, although the standards include several suggestions for appropriate readings and a renewed emphasis on nonfiction or informational reading material. OPRFHS teachers have been considering ways to include more nonfiction in existing courses while retaining the rich range of literature already taught at the high school.

Many people are concerned that the new math standards will require students to memorize more and understand math less.  The new math standards are fewer in number but require greater focus on conceptual understanding, procedural skill, and application of mathematical knowledge in relevant situations.  The CCSS include eight essential Standards for Mathematical Practice that cut across grade levels and content areas and will prompt teachers to rethink how what they are teaching relates to upcoming math lessons and future student learning.

Science, social studies, world languages, career, and technology courses will all use Common Core standards that are in development and review by national curriculum and research organizations. Similar to English and math standards, standards in these areas will stress more cohesive approaches to connecting practices, concepts, and ideas that appear in OPRFHS classrooms.

What will CCSS assessments look like?
The CCSS are not a national curriculum. The CCSS identify essential skills and knowledge all students need for success in college and in the workforce.  The CCSS do not dictate how students acquire that knowledge and skills; however, the ISBE has agreed to a way to measure how well students are acquiring standards and how effective schools are in helping students attain those standards.

Along with a set of national standards the ISBE committed to a set of assessments to measure student growth toward college and career readiness and to provide teachers and administrators with results oriented data about what students know and are able to do.  ISBE has signed on with the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) that has been developing and releasing sample questions for review by teachers and by the public.

The details about the format and timing of PARCC assessments are still changing, but OPRFHS administrators and staff anticipate that by the 2014-2015 school year the system will be in operation.  We anticipate two required assessments for each student, for each year the student in in high school.  One assessment will be a mid-year diagnostic assessment and the other assessment will be summative in nature.  Sometime in 2013, PARCC will develop a web-based platform to provide additional information and resources on the assessments.

What work have we begun in our academic divisions?
Two significant steps have been taken to address the use of CCSS at OPRFHS.  First, faculty and staff have been studying the standards in order to revise existing courses to align with common core standards.  Second, all divisions have been creating curriculum maps that describe where common core standards appear and how they will be assessed as part of routine classroom instruction.  The curriculum maps will be posted on the OPRFHS-D200 website as they are completed.  Given the large number of courses offered at the high school, this work will be phased in over several years and in time for the 2014-2015 PARCC assessments.  However, the work will continue beyond the time the PARCC assessments are given as we look for ways to improve student outcomes.  Check the webpages for the separate divisions for the most recent and most recently updated maps.

If you have questions about information on this webpage, please contact staff at the Office of Curriculum and Instruction by clicking here.