Common Core's impact grows clearer with sample test items

City and state officials have promised that new curriculum standards, known as the Common Core, would de-emphasize rote learning in favor of critical thinking. But exactly what that would look like wasn’t clear when the Common Core first entered the conversation.

Now the picture is growing clearer. Earlier this winter, Department of Education officials testifying before members of the City Council during a hearing on college readiness aired a slideshow presentation that showed how the same skills are tested now and how they would be tested once the Common Core is fully rolled out.

For example, the high school English Regents exam currently asks students to answer a series of multiple-choice questions that require them to locate pieces of information in texts. On a Common Core-aligned test, they would have to read several different passages and write an essay analyzing their arguments, bringing in information from other sources to bolster the analysis.

The Common Core would reshape math tests, too. A sample fifth-grade question asks students to read a paragraph and draw out the relevant information to adjudicate a dispute about three friends’ pizza consumption. In contrast, a current exam question simply asks students to add fractions that represent the sizes of two people’s meals.

The state is scheduled to roll out Common Core-aligned tests in grades 3 through 8 next year. Regents exams are supposed to start reflecting the Common Core’s focus on real-world situations, problem-solving, and informational texts in the 2013-2014 school year. The state is also weighing whether to adopt brand-new, Common Core-aligned tests for the 2014-2015 school year that are being developed by a consortium of states that have adopted the new standards.

Schools across the city and state have spent the year practicing connecting instruction to the Common Core, and this spring, every teacher is supposed to assign one “task” that is linked to the standards. This afternoon, Elizabeth will be asking Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky and State Education Commission John King how the pilot year is going during a panel discussion at WNET’s Celebration of Teaching and Learning.

The pages from the city’s slideshow presentation are below.