BHSEC, You, and the Common Core

Isabel Schneck, ’15

In January, representatives from the New York City Department of Education observed certain classes at BHSEC as part of the Quality Review. In addition to the overall performance of teachers and the effectiveness of their lessons, the Quality Review also considers how the teaching and curriculum at BHSEC aligns with the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). Many people have heard of the Common Core Standards, but few know exactly what they entail and how they will affect BHSEC.

Prior to the institution of Common Core standards, states had their own standards for college readiness. Over the past few decades, it became clear that many American students were not adequately prepared for college. In U.S. colleges, 60% of students require the support of remedial classes during their freshman year. Responding to this high percentage, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and several educators and experts across the country developed the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The CCSSI lists the skills that students in grades K-12 should master in English language arts and in mathematics. Each state can decide if it wants to adopt the standards, and 45 have enacted them thus far. The Common Core standards are the same across all states that decide to follow them. This uniformity allows students across the country to develop a consistent set of academic skills, and enables teachers to effectively collaborate in order to improve their teaching.

The Common Core standards aim to effectively prepare all American students for college; yet in many schools, enacting them requires significant revisions to existing curricula. However, Dr. Lerner explained that “the early college system at BHSEC already uses the rigorous texts and strategies that the Common Core standards call for.” For example, Common Core writing standard #1 requires that 9th and 10th graders “write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” Essays at BHSEC already follow this format, so the Common Core standards do not impose any new requirements on our English or history essay instruction.

However, there will be significant changes to the Regents examinations. In June, high school students will take redesigned Regents exams, aligned to the Common Core standards. These exams act as a transition between the previous Regents format and a completely new statewide PARCC (Partnership for Academic Readiness in College and Careers) exam. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, these exams will replace the Regents entirely. Dr. Lerner cautions that “BHSEC students had no problems with the Regents exams, and they’ll have no problems with the new ones.”

While the Common Core standards may be causing a great stir in the news and in schools throughout the country, BHSEC’s teaching and curriculum will remain, for the large part, unchanged by the new standards. Our early college model has already fulfilled the expectations of the Common Core. In fact, by creating an authentic college-level program, BHSEC transcends the standards and fulfills the Common Core’s purpose.

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