Common Core (Part 2)
(Link to Part 1, 2013 edition)

         This year, in the states which have adopted the Common Core State Standards, school districts will begin to administer tests called Smarter Balanced.  How the results will be used will vary by individual districts - until 2019.  And bringing all students up to the CCSS standards will be a challenge.  Helping in that challenge are many of the 2015 BESSIES winners which are aligned to the CCSS and offer high quality content, graphics, and interactivity.  But first, some background:
         There still remains much controversy surrounding the Common Core. A bi-partisan effort by governors and state school officials, CCSS was developed to address the vastly uneven, and arguably discriminatory, learning standards across the states: Too many American students are leaving high school unprepared for college or employment, unable to compete in a global marketplace.
(It should be noted here that both China and India have national education standards, and both behemoths are churning out STEM-educated talent at a far greater rate than the U.S.).  CCSS was also designed as a money-saving tool for individual states which previously had to develop their own tests and standards, as well as improve student school-to-school transitions.  At its simplest, CCSS defines what every American student should know by a given grade level, but specifics regarding curriculum and materials are left in the hands of local school districts, i.e.,  CCSS is not curriculum, and it does not mandate what material must be used.
         In addition, Common Core is not a thinly-disguised attempt to 'nationalize' education and create a national school board.  The federal government had no hand in developing the standards, but does incentivize adoption with funding for states that are implementing it.
         Big changes are sometimes hard to accept, much less implement.  Be that as it may, by 2019, all high school seniors must pass the Smarter Balanced CCSS test to graduate.  That's less than three instructional years from now! Perhaps it would be more prudent to slow, at least, the testing phase, to give educators more time to get boots on the ground.  Many educators, faced with the new standards, need more time, training, and focused materials to bring their instruction up to CCSS standards.
         For more information about CCSS, see School Improvement Network's, the 2015 BESSIES winner for "Common Core Information Website."
2015 BESSIES winners that are CCSS aligned include: Learning A-Z's Headsprout, Reading A-Z, and Raz-Kids; Fuel Education's Middle School Language Arts; ExploreLearning's Gizmos; Edgenuity's English Language Arts 9, ABC-CLIO's World History and World Geography; Compass Learning's Hybridge and Pathblazer; Discovery Education's Math Techbook; IXL Learning's IXL Learning; and Voyager Sopris's LANGUAGE! Live.
         In particular, we mention GET Waggle (Triumph Learning), where a suite of instructional packages (Support Coach) is available for Mathematics and English Language Arts teachers, providing professional development and support. The Common Core Support Coach focuses solely and intensely on foundational math skills for all teachers who have students struggling with the rigorous new standards.