Alaska's Senate Education Committee Focuses on Common Core State Standards

Early in the 2014 legislative session Education Committee Chair Gary Stevens wanted to open the conversation related to Alaska’s state academic standards and their relation to the Common Core State Standards.   He arranged a two-day hearing to discuss implementation of the state standards.

“There appears to be a fair amount of misinformation and misunderstanding about these standards in Alaska,” said Sen. Stevens.  “This hearing is intended to help the Alaska Legislature and general public understand the standards, their importance and their impact on our Alaskan students.”

I had the opportunity to present on January 7 and engage with committee members on the policy conditions in the states.  My testimony included the fact that college, workforce and life readiness demands more of our students than ever before.  Remedial courses continue to be necessary before students can take credit-bearing courses in higher education.  Business and industry say they can’t fill jobs with employees prepared to think critically, communicate, problem-solve, collaborate or have a basic ability to read and write effectively.  These same skills are reported to be lacking in a college classroom as well.

The Common Core State Standards will better prepare all students to be successful in college and careers through deeper, more rigorous and clearer expectations for learners.  The standards emphasize more complex content and concepts and the development of real-world skills with authentic purpose.  Ultimately this leads to job creation, economic development and prosperity for the state.

Alaska’s standards will allow teachers, administrators, students and parents to use a common language in preparing the best educational environment possible.  Beyond the in-state commonality, Alaska has an opportunity to learn from others as well as share the good work happening in the state.  The world opens for a classroom teacher when they can obtain lesson plans, texts and other materials to customize instruction for their students. 

As these standards are fewer in number and clearer they also require students to learn more deeply than before.  To do that teachers now must think differently about the way they teach.  Daily activities may require learning experiences that integrate higher-order thinking skills such as an inquiry-based approach.  More importantly teachers now must incorporate more real-world application so students leave the classroom prepared to apply these skills in the community.    

Following my presentation, Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, shared details on development of the standards, the adoption process as well as current implementation efforts. 

Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley and his staff offered information on how their standards were developed in relation to the Common Core as well as how assessments are being used to measure student growth.  Local school district leaders also shared how they are implementing rigorous academic standards coupled with high expectations for student outcomes.

Alaska presentation552.5 KB