The New Utah Core Standards
The Utah State Board of Education voted in 2010 to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics and Language Arts. Many parents and teachers have wondered what this will mean to us in Alpine School District and how it will influence our secondary math instruction.
It is important to emphasize that the CCSS are not a national core. The core was developed by a consortium of teachers, and state leaders who recognized the need for consistency in math standards between states. This group’s goal was to define the math concepts that students need in order to be successful in post high school education and in the workplace. The CCSS are the result of that consortium. This movement was not driven by the federal government, and individual states are not under any federal obligation to adopt the standards. Currently, 40 states have voted to adopt the CCSS.
The standards are well-defined in each year from kindergarten through 8th grade. From 9th through 11th grade, however, each state has the option of choosing how to organize the content. The Utah State Board of Education voted to organize the curriculum in a way that spreads out and combines algebra and geometry content over 9th and 10th grade. Instead of teaching Algebra 1 and Geometry as separate courses, the same content will be taught together over two years. This approach is referred to as the international pathway, and the decision to follow this pathway was made by the State Board of Education.
One of the advantages to the international pathway is a more effective transition between high school courses. By focusing on Geometry as a separate course, many students were essentially taking a break from Algebra. Previously, when students enrolled in Algebra 2 after Geometry, they had spent a year without studying several important Algebra topics. With Geometry and Algebra taught together over two years, students will experience a smooth transition between courses.
The timeline to develop assessments for the new core is also a state decision. The State of Utah conducted a pilot assessment in 2013-2014, and the first operational assessment on the CCSS occurs during the 2014-2015 school year.
Although the accountability deadline of 2015 is mandated by the state, specific implementation plans are left to the district. In Alpine School District, we began secondary math partial implementation in 2012-2013 with all 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students moving to the CCSS. We continued with full implementation of 7th through 11th grade in 2013-2014. Any student enrolled in Algebra 1 prior to implementation will not move to the CCSS, but will continue in the old core until graduation.
As we are still early in this process, there are many issues that still need to be addressed and resolved at the appropriate times. Some of the challenges and issues related to implementation of this new core are:
- Accelerated Tracks: The purpose of the CCSS is not to slow or spread out the curriculum. Alpine is committed to continue to provide opportunities for students to learn at a pace that is best for them individually. An honors and accelerated track will be provided to continue to allow students to take AP Calculus in 11th or 12th grade.
- Recovery: An emphasis of the CCSS is to keep as many students on grade level as possible. This means increased efforts to provide support for students before they fall behind, rather than failing, and then repeating a course. We realize that in some cases a student may need to repeat a course. However, when placing students, we will continue to recommend the class that would be best for the individual student. Our goal is to have more interventions when students begin to struggle, rather than simply repeating a class.
- Graduation Requirements: Graduation requirements for the new Utah Core can be found here.
12th grade Math: The CCSS curriculum is designed to be completed by 11th grade. Additional math courses such as College Prep, Precalculus, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, concurrent enrollment (where available), and others will still be available for students to take in their senior year.