Welcome to the Blog Salon: Common Core 101

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen, Sep 10, 2012 0 comments

Kristen Engebretsen

Back in February, during the winter meeting for the arts education council, we discussed the results of a survey we had completed asking members of Americans for the Arts what type of programming they were interested in for arts education.

Forty-six percent of respondents said that they would be interested in programming related to broader education reform issues, such Common Core State Standards, No Child Left Behind, the achievement gap, student engagement, and state or federal policy.

As the council discussed how we could weave some of this into our programming, we began an interesting conversation about the intersection between the arts and the Common Core.

First off, several council members asked, what is the Common Core State Standards Initiative (or “Common Core” for short)?

Simply put, the Common Core State Standards are the new English Language Arts and Math standards for student learning.

This initiative started as a collaboration between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. They wanted teachers to have common standards for what was being taught so that a third grade student in California would have the same standards as a third grade student in Massachusetts. Makes sense, right?

In a day and age where we can’t get our elected officials to agree on much with regards to education reform, it seems impressive that 46 and DC have adopted them so far. These new standards are not “federally” mandated, but rather adopted by individual states. However, there was motivation for states to adopt these standards—they had to adopt them in order to be eligible for Race to the Top funds, which offered states millions of dollars in grant money.

The standards are focused on college and career prep, with an emphasis on higher order thinking skills. They dictate what is to be taught, but not how or when. There are two assessment consortia who are designing digital-based and performance-based assessments for students to accompany the new standards.

Another question that arose during our council meeting was: Is the group that is revising the national arts standards the same thing as the Common Core?

In a word, no. The national arts standards are being revised by a group called the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. So while both initiatives include the word “core”, they are not the same thing. Common Core has been branded by the writers of the English Language Arts and Math standards and cannot be used by other groups wanting to revise their standards.

So while the Common Core has spurred many subject areas to also update their standards, none of the other subjects will (for now) be branded as “Common Core.” Arts Education Council member Lynne Kingsley provides a nice overview of where the National Coalition for Arts Standards is at in their process to revise the arts education standards.

The final question that came up during the council meeting was: What do Americans for the Arts members need to know about these changes to standards and curriculum?

We decided that we needed to disseminate some basic information about the Common Core to the field of arts education. We’ve compiled a list of resources here that provides more information, including an excellent video featuring David Coleman (one of the authors of the Common Core), discussing the possibilities for the arts under Common Core.

Then we rounded up arts and education leaders from across the country to discuss the intersection of the arts and common core for this Blog Salon.

Throughout the salon, you will read various perspectives on this issue, such as:

1)       The possibility of arts teachers to train general classroom teachers on how to use performance-based assessments and portfolios for student assessment.

2)      The possibility of cross-curricular connections, especially within English Language Arts' new non-fiction requirement.

3)      The possibility of an even narrower curriculum.

4)      The possibility of an expanded, integrated curriculum.

5)      And many more viewpoints we hope our authors will generate.

Love them or hate them, the new Common Core State Standards are the next big thing in education. We have invited teachers, teaching artists, nonprofits, arts organizations, grantmakers, and department of education employees to weigh-in on the possibilities for arts education during the implementation of the Common Core. I hope that this salon and these resources help clarify this huge new change to our nation’s schools.

Please feel free to ask questions and make comments below, and I (and the other authors from the salon) will be sure to respond!

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