The new Alaska standards in language arts and math are the foundation of our curriculum development in these two content areas. These standards that are tightly aligned with the Common Core raise the bar of K-12 instruction by placing a greater emphasis on those skills needed for college or the workplace. Recently, I’ve encountered a sect of our community who is opposed to the Common Core, and by association (I suppose), the new Alaska standards. One of the objections to the Core is that the standards are a federal way to undo local control of our schools. And while it is true that the standards do standardize the “what” of instruction in these two content areas, I don’t believe that they will cause our students to lose their Alaskan identity. The “how” of instruction remains a local decision.
Although I regularly boast that our students perform well above the state average, I am frustrated that I cannot do the same with students from across the country. Alaska’s standardized tests do not allow for such a comparison. The SAT and ACT exams for our college bound students provide some perspective, but there is not a lot to point to for our 6th graders. I am pleased that the new Alaska standards will in a sense, level the playing field to allow this type of comparison. One of this year’s school board goals is to design and implement an objective process to gather comparable student achievement data from high performing school districts. When superior systems are identified, the board will investigate their processes and as possible apply them to KPBSD. The identification of such districts will be much easier knowing that we are teaching similar math and language arts standards.
So while it is fair to be suspicious that the Common Core standards are a mistake, the move to standardize this end of education will actually help us improve.