Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has launched a web page to help parents understand the Common Core standards that are supposed to transform education across the country.
That's good, because I'm having trouble getting my head around it.
I know the standards are supposed to make sure students across the country get more rigorous lessons, with a testing system that allows for good comparisons from state to state and country to country. I know there are a whole lot of new tests coming to North Carolina, starting this spring, and that we're likely to see some pretty grim results the first time out.
My confusion comes partly from the fact that curriculum is not the kind of thing that's easy to translate into newspaper writing. Another big issue is that the answer to a whole lot of questions seems to be "We don't know yet."
I know North Carolina is among 24 states working with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to create new online English and math tests based on Common Core standards, and that some CMS classrooms will pilot those exams this spring. Other states are working with a group called PARCC to do the same. Superintendent Heath Morrison said last week that there has been talk of 10-hour tests, based on an estimate by PARCC, but no one seems to know how solid that is or exactly what it will mean for local students, teachers and schools.
The good news is that CMS leaders seem to want to explain this as much as I want to understand it. I'm meeting with them later this week. Here's how you can help: Readers with close ties to schools often know the key questions and issues before I do. So let me know what you're hearing, wondering and worrying about.
For instance, a reader shared this example of what's supposed to be a state-issued bubble sheet for this year's exams, illustrating the difficulty of bubbling in open-ended math answers (the top row is correct, the bottom row wrong). Board member Tom Tate asked last week about how CMS plans to deal with potential confusion on answer sheets. That's exactly the kind of thing we all need to understand.