The Common Core State Standards, which are backed by extensive research and supported by educators, school district leaders, and President Obama, are an important step forward in education reform. They establish clearer and higher standards for K-12 students in Math and literacy in English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science. Beginning in 2014-15, students with IEPs will also be held to these standards.
Over time, students will be doing a lot more writing in school—they will need to strengthen their writing skills to demonstrate their learning across subjects. In English, there will be more of a focus on non-fiction texts in addition to traditional literature. There will also be a focus on literacy in all content areas.
In math, there will be more emphasis on problem-solving, and students will need to be able to explain how they arrived at the solution to a problem. The new standards also emphasize the need for students to develop critical thinking skills—skills that are difficult to measure on standardized tests. We will need to design different types of student assessments to measure students' skill in critical thinking. This cannot be done with multiple-choice tests alone.
Visit the NYC Department of Education's Common Core Standards website
Learn more about the Common Core Standards initiative in New York State
For students with disabilities, annual goals, plans for progress monitoring, and promotion criteria are documented in the IEP, while report cards document progress made in the general education curriculum. The IEP describes the specially-designed instruction and accommodations for individual students that will be used to create access to grade level standards and enable progress toward annual goals. All students, including students with disabilities, should be working toward grade-level standards. Grading policies should apply to all students in the school, including students with disabilities.
Schools must document grading policies and make them transparent to staff, students, and families. The NYCDOE Student Bill of Rights and Parent Bill of Rights include the rights to know and be provided with written documentation of grading policies and to receive grades based on those policies. Schools that need to update their grading policies should do so during the fall. As part of the process, schools are encouraged to create time for teacher teams to review and discuss policies before they share them with the school communities at parent teacher conferences or another time before they release report cards.