State adopts tougher standards

POLK COUNTY -- Starting next year, students in Polk County and across Oregon will face stiffer math and English standards.

POLK COUNTY -- Starting next year, students in Polk County and across Oregon will face stiffer math and English standards.

School districts, meanwhile, will have to pay for and devise training for faculty members in order to incorporate the standards into their teaching.

The state Board of Education adopted on Oct. 28 the Common Core State Standards, a system of benchmarks that has been approved in 41 states as a way to make it easier to compare results nationally.

CCSS is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The CCSSs for grades K-12 were developed with a variety of stakeholders, including content experts, higher education faculty, teachers, school administrators and parents, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

Moving to the CCSS will mean replacing the statewide assessment in these two subjects. Content for the new standards will be introduced as soon as the 2011-12 school year.

"We know that our students will compete for jobs with students from all over the world," State Board of Education Chairwoman Brenda Frank said. "We are taking an important step forward to ensure that we are providing Oregon students with the tools they need to be globally competitive."

The board unanimously approved new English standards, but only narrowly passed math standards by a vote of 4-3.

For English, there will be an emphasis on writing on demand and using technology. High school students will have to practice argument and informative writing.

Math will see a plethora of changes, garnering much criticism from officials of various districts.

For example, students will have to score several points higher on state tests to meet benchmarks.

Second-graders will see 35 percent new content or content taught in a new way. For the high school, 29 percent of basic standards will be new content. And in seventh grade, 47 percent of the standards used will be introduced from higher grades.

Cory Bradshaw, director of instructional services at Dallas School District, was one of those who testified to the state board against overhauling math standards.

"I don't think they're more rigorous, I just think there are many more of them," Bradshaw said. "This would make a difference because of the order in which things are to be studied."

Bradshaw noted the state updated math standards for middle and high schools within the last three years.

"Virtually every district spent a lot of money on math materials for that new adoption, based on standards the state had given us ... now they're telling us this is a whole new ballgame.

"It means teachers are going to have do a lot of work in content alignment," she continued.

The Oregon Department of Education website -- www.ode.state.or.us -- includes information describing the math and English change standards.

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