New K-12 academic standards are almost here

For the first time in 10 years, Colorado will adopt new K-12 academic standards this December. “These standards are not like the old ones,” the Colorado Department of Education website warns. “They are not a curriculum or an exhaustive detail of each lesson or fact. They are the few, crucial concepts and skills students need to have mastered by the end of each grade.”

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Standards establish what students are expected to be able to know or do—and they’re usually followed by assessments. Thus, Colorado has long planned to revise its Colorado Student Assessment Program–usually known as the CSAP– next year, in time to test students on the new standards. (Or possibly, as Governor Ritter has suggested, throw the CSAP out altogether and start with something entirely new.)

Today, the state Board of Ed plans to spend the majority of the day discussing the new standards, with approximately 20 minutes scheduled for each standard.

Are the new standards tougher than the old ones? According to a Denver Post story, a recent U.S. Department of Education report indicated that Colorado’s current standards are below the federal standards:

Colorado is one of several states reporting that its students have mastered math and reading skills when they don’t meet tougher federal standards, federal officials said this week…

The U.S. Education Department report, released this week, compared state achievement standards with the more challenging standards in the federally funded National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In Colorado, the widest discrepancy was in eighth-grade reading, where 87 percent of Colorado students met state standards but only 35 percent met the national mark, the report said.

For those really gung-ho about the new standards, today’s work session will be a can’t-miss event. But if an eight-hour board meeting isn’t your cup of tea, the draft standards are also available at the Colorado Department of Education website, which lists an email address for comments.

But don’t expect to be able to browse what others have already said. Inexplicably, science (pdf) is the only subject for which the state has listed public comments—and responses. The exchanges typically go something like this:

Comment: These science standards could largely have been written in the early 1900’s there is very little cutting edge science is included, especially in physical science.

Response: The foundation of science has not changed a lot in this time. References to non-newtonian physics have been made as well as references to genetics, plate tectonics, global warming, and technologies such as GIS and GPS. Beyond this the issues become highly specific for upper level science courses and not what all students need to know about science.

The public is invited to comment on the standards in today’s meeting, but only in 3-minute increments. Those with more to say can direct their written comments by email on or before November 20, 2009, to: Standards_Review_Com@cde.state.co.us

For an interactive agenda of today’s meeting, go here.

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