Monthly Archives: April 2014

Teaching Digital Natives!

Ed Tech Is Poised to Go Mainstream

By Sari Factor

Six hours a day. That’s how much time the average teenager spends online, according to a June 2013 study by McAfee. These are “digital natives,” a generation that has grown up online and connected.

Just think about it: students born in 2007, the year the iPhone was launched, are already in first grade. Students born during the dot-com boom of the late ’90s are in high school.  These students have never known a world without the Internet. They’re communicating 140 characters at a time, establishing completely new ways of consuming news and information.

Clearly, dictating to digital natives that they “power down” in school is a huge turn-off. Yet many adults express concern that students won’t be able to learn as effectively in classrooms that are fundamentally different from their own experiences. Educators are increasingly breaking through that resistance to create a learning experience using technology to engage today’s learners and improve outcomes, with benefits that include:

Personalizing the learning experience – Digital natives have grown up surrounded and stimulated by media, and they consume information very differently from the previous generation of students. Netflix NFLX -0.05%, playlists and DVRs have fueled their personalized entertainment, and technology makes personalized learning possible too. Any teacher can tell you how difficult it is to customize instruction for every student. Inevitably, they end up “teaching to the middle,” leaving some learners behind and failing to challenge those who have already mastered a concept. Technology allows teachers to tailor instruction to meet individual student needs, making learning more accessible and enabling all students to maximize their potential.

Learning how to learn – Being a lifelong learner is the most important attribute for success, and will grow in importance in our dynamic and competitive world. Today’s students will change careers multiple times throughout their lives – many studies suggest Americans will hold between fifteen and twenty jobs over the course of their careers – and the jobs these graduates will hold may not even exist yet. Knowing one’s own learning style and developing the self-discipline and grit to grasp new skills throughout a lifetime will be critical for digital natives – especially in the fast-paced, distracting information landscape that is their natural habitat. Using technology to conduct research and acquire new skills can help these students develop the most essential capability in the information economy: how to learn.

Putting students in charge –Technology-based platforms and tools can provide students constant feedback so they understand how they’re progressing relative to their own goals, their peers, and their teachers’ and parents’ expectations. A clear road map of progress can be motivating for the student and immensely valuable for the teacher, who can intervene early or help a student advance more quickly. By empowering students and making them directly responsible for their progress, online learning encourages habits of resourcefulness that will serve students well once they leave the classroom.

Helping students disconnect from the Twitter-verse and spend more time on task – The more time students spend focused on their course work, the better their academic performance. With online learning, no one can hide in the back of the classroom, so every student is accountable. Rich multimedia content and interactive activities in many of today’s technology-based curricula offer familiar, friendly terrain for digital natives and can keep students more engaged and focused on their work. Over time, students get better at shutting out distractions and staying on task, even when they’re not in school – an extremely valuable skill in this media-saturated age.

Encouraging constructive communication – Digital natives are growing up in a social media landscape where multi-directional dialogue is commonplace. Yet the classroom too often remains a one-way street where the teacher imparts knowledge and students are expected to absorb it. Technology can help broaden the discussion by connecting students and teachers, and by opening the doors to outside voices that can lend additional knowledge and expertise to the classroom.

The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation forecasts that 50% of high school classes will be online by 2019. For some, this may sound worrisome, but resistance to education technology will begin to break down as people see how eagerly today’s digital natives embrace learning online. The use of technology presents an undeniably radical shift in the business of education, but skeptical and concerned adults alike should take comfort in the fact that in many ways, ed tech also embodies a return to the basics. The skills that technology-based instruction can impart to today’s digital natives – self-reliance, perseverance and resourcefulness among them – have a distinctly retro feel. In an increasingly distracted, text and tweet-addled, short attention span world, these skills will be indispensable for the students of today and tomorrow.

Sari Factor is CEO of Edgenuity, an online and blended learning company based in Scottsdale, Ariz., currently used by nine of the 15 largest school districts in the U.S. Follow on Twitter @Edgenuityinc



First Total Lunar Eclipse of 2014: MORE TO COME!

First Total Lunar Eclipse of 2014: The Complete Skywatcher’s Guide

By Joe Rao, Skywatching Columnist   |   April 14, 2014 05:00pm ET

Editor’s Update for 6 am ET, April 15: The peak of the first total lunar eclipse of 2014 has ended. For our latest story and the amazing photos of the lunar eclipse, read: Under a Blood Moon: 1st Total Lunar Eclipse or 2014 Wows Stargazers: Photos

No enthusiastic skywatcher misses a total eclipse of the moon, and if weather permits tonight, neither should you.

The phases of the April 14-15 total lunar eclipse are shown with GMT timestamps in this NASA image from a video guide. The total lunar eclipse will affect two NASA spacecraft orbiting the moon since they rely on sunlight for power.
The phases of the April 14-15 total lunar eclipse are shown with GMT timestamps in this NASA image from a video guide. The total lunar eclipse will affect two NASA spacecraft orbiting the moon since theyrely on sunlight for power.
Credit: NASA

The spectacle is often more beautiful and interesting than one would think. During the time that the moon is entering into and later emerging from out of the Earth’s shadow, secondary phenomena may be overlooked. You can alsowatch the eclipse live on, courtesy of NASA, the Slooh community telescope and theVirtual Telescope Project.


Observers that know what to look for have a better chance of seeing the stunning eclipse, weather permitting. This first total lunar eclipse of 2014 is set to begin tonight (April 14) into the wee hours of Tuesday morning (April 15). The lunar eclipse is set to begin at about 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT), and it should last about 3.5 hours. The eclipse should be visible, weather permitting, through most of North America and part of South America. [Total Lunar Eclipse of April 15: Visibility Maps (Gallery)]

This NASA graphic shows where the total lunar eclipse of April 14-15, 2014 will be visible from. The lunar eclipse coincides with April's full moon and is the first of four total lunar eclipes (a tetrad) between April 2014 and September 2015.

This NASA graphic shows where the total lunar eclipse of April 14-15, 2014 will be visible from. The lunar eclipse coincides with April’s full moon and is the first of four total lunar eclipes (a tetrad) between April 2014 and September 2015.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Here is’s full guide for what to expect during all stages of the eclipse:

Diagrams explain how eclipses work.
A series of four total lunar eclipses in a row is called a tetrad. See how four blood moons of a total lunar eclipse tetrad work in this infographic.
Credit: By Karl Tate, Infographics Artist

Stage 1 @ 12:53 a.m. EDT: moon enters penumbra — The shadow cone of Earth has two parts: a dark, inner umbrasurrounding by a lighter penumbraThe penumbra is the pale outer portion of Earth’s shadow. Although the eclipse begins officially at this moment, this is in essence an academic event. You won’t see anything unusual happening to the moon — at least not just yet.

Earth’s penumbral shadow is so faint that it remains invisible until the moon is deeply immersed in it. We must wait until the penumbra has reached roughly 70 percent across the moon’s disk. For about the next 45 minutes the full moon will continue to appear to shine normally although with each passing minute it is progressing ever deeper into Earth’s outer shadow.

Stage 2 @ 1:39 a.m. EDT: Penumbral shadow begins to appear — Now the moon has progressed far enough into the penumbra so that the shadow should be evident on its disk. Start looking for a very subtle light shading to appear on the moon’s left portion. This will become increasingly more and more evident as the minutes pass; the shading appearing to spread and deepen. Just before the moon begins to enter Earth’s dark umbral shadow the penumbra should appear as an obvious smudge or tarnishing of the moon’s left portion.

Stage 3 @ 1:58 a.m. EDT: Moon enters umbra — The moon now crosses into Earth’s dark central shadow, called the umbra. A small dark scallop will begin to appear on the moon’s left-hand (eastern) limb. The partial phases of the eclipse begins, the pace quickens and the change is dramatic. The umbra is much darker than the penumbra and fairly sharp-edged.

As the minutes pass, the dark shadow appears to slowly creep across the moon’s face. At first, the moon’s limb may seem to vanish completely inside of the umbra, but much later, as it moves in deeper you’ll probably notice it glowing dimly orange, red or brown. Notice also that the edge of Earth’s shadow projected on the moon is curved. Here is visible evidence that the Earth is a sphere, as deduced by Aristotle from Iunar eclipses he observed in the 4th century BC. It’s at this point that deep shadows of a brilliant moonlit night begin to fade away. [‘Blood Moons’ Explained: What Causes a Lunar Eclipse Tetrad? (Infographic)]

Timetable for the 12 stages of the eclipse: AKDT = Alaskan Daylight Time. HAST = Hawaiian-Aleutian Standard Time. (Arizona does not observe daylight time, so use PDT). An asterisk (*) indicates p.m. on April 14, but all other times are a.m. on April 15. D

Timetable for the 12 stages of the eclipse: AKDT = Alaskan Daylight Time. HAST = Hawaiian-Aleutian Standard Time. (Arizona does not observe daylight time, so use PDT). An asterisk (*) indicates p.m. on April 14, but all other times are a.m. on April 15. Dashes means that the moon has set below the horizon.
Credit: Joe Rao/

Stage 4 @ 2:49 a.m. EDT: 75 percent coverage — With three-quarters of the moon’s disk now eclipsed, that part of it that is immersed in shadow should begin to very faintly light up, similar to a piece of iron heated to the point where it just begins to glow. It will become obvious that the umbral shadow is not complete darkness. Using binoculars or a telescope, its outer part is usually light enough to reveal lunar seas and craters, but the central part is much darker, and sometimes no surface features are recognizable. Colors in the umbra vary greatly from one eclipse to the next, Reds and grays usually dominate, but sometimes browns, blues and other colors can be spotted.

Stage 5 @ 3:01 a.m. EDT: Less than five minutes to totality — Several minutes before (and after) totality, the contrast between the remaining pale-yellow sliver and the ruddy-brown coloration spread over the rest of the moon’s disk. This may produce a beautiful phenomenon known to some as the “Japanese lantern effect.”

Stage 6 @ 3:06 a.m. EDT: Total eclipse begins — When the last of the moon enters the umbra, the total eclipse begins. No one knows how the moon will appear during totality. Some eclipses are such a dark gray-black that the moon nearly vanishes from view. The moon can glow a bright orange during other eclipses.

The reason the moon can be seen at all when totally eclipsed is that sunlight is scattered and refracted around the edge of Earth by the planet’s atmosphere. To an astronaut standing on the moon during totality, the sun would be hidden behind a dark earth outlined by a brilliant red ring consisting of all the world’s sunrises and sunsets. The brightness of this ring around Earth depends on global weather conditions and the amount of dust suspended in the air. A clear atmosphere on Earth means a bright lunar eclipse. If a major volcanic eruption has injected particles into the stratosphere, the eclipse is very dark.


Moon Master: An Easy Quiz for Lunatics
For most of human history, the moon was largely a mystery. It spawned awe and fear and to this day is the source of myth and legend. But today we know a lot about our favorite natural satellite. Do you?
Full Moon over Long Beach, CA
0 of 10 questions complete


Moon Globe
12″ Moon Globe. Buy Here
Credit: Store

Stage 7 @ 3:46 a.m. EDT: Middle of totality — The moon will shine anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times fainter than it did just a couple of hours ago. Since the moon is moving to the north of the center of Earth’s umbra, the gradation of color and brightness across the lunar disk should be such that its lower portion should appear darkest, with hues of deep copper or chocolate brown.  Meanwhile, its upper portion should appear brightest, with hues of reds, oranges and even perhaps a soft bluish-white. [10 Surprising Lunar Facts]

Observers away from bright city lights will notice a much greater number of stars than were visible earlier in the night. During totality, the moon will be seen just a couple of degrees away from the star Spica in the constellation Virgo. Although Spica is one of the 21 brightest stars in the sky, before the eclipse begins the moon will almost seem to overwhelm the star with its light. But during totality, Spica will become much more conspicuous and its bluish color will contrast strikingly with the eerie, ruddy moon.

The darkness of the sky could be impressive. The surrounding landscape may take on a somber hue. Before the eclipse, the full moon looked flat and one-dimensional. During totality, however, it will look smaller and three-dimensional — like some weirdly illuminated ball suspended in space.

Before the moon entered the earth’s shadow, the temperature at the lunar equator on its sunlit surface hovered at 260 degrees Fahrenheit (127 degrees Celsius). Since the moon lacks an atmosphere, there is no way that this heat could be retained from escaping into space as the shadow sweeps by. When in shadow, the temperature on the moon  plummets to about minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 173 degrees Celsius), which equates to a drop of more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit (300 degrees Celsius) in only about two hours.



Moon Map
Laminated Moon Map.Buy Here
Credit: Store

Stage 8 @ 4:24 a.m. EDT: Total eclipse ends —The emergence of the moon from the shadow begins. The first small segment of the moon begins to reappear, followed again for the next several minutes by the “Japanese lantern effect.”

Stage 9 @ 4:41 a.m. EDT: 75 percent coverage—Any vestiges of coloration within the umbra should be disappearing now. From here on, as the dark shadow methodically creeps off the moon’s disk it should appear black and featureless.

Stage 10 @ 5:33 a.m. EDT: Moon leaves umbra—The dark central shadow clears the moon’s upper right hand (northwestern) limb.

Stage 11 @ 5:53 a.m. EDT: Penumbra shadow fades away —As the last, faint shading vanishes off the moon’s upper right portion, the visual show comes to an end.

Stage 12: Moon leaves penumbra —The eclipse “officially” ends, as the moon is completely free of the penumbral shadow.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing picture of the April 15 total lunar eclipse, you can send photos, comments and your name and location to managing editor Tariq Malik at

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer’s Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y. Follow us @Spacedotcom,Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Where does my child rank in school?

All the Children are Above Average

by  •  • 12 Comments

“Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

UnknownThose are the closing words Garrison Keillor spoke each night on his radio show A Prairie Home Companion. He was summarizing the fictional hometown Lake Wobegon – a special place. It’s an interesting concept – this idea that “all the children are above average” and, I believe, can be a detrimental one when viewed through the lens of government-mandated testing.

From No Child Left Behind to the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, from OTES to PARCC Assessments, these Federal and state mandates share a common theme – all expect our children to be above average, by their standards. Our federal and state policy makers expect all children to perform at a specific level.

It’s a model of educational conformity at its finest. The “ideal” of what each child should be able to achieve.

Here’s my problem – children aren’t widgets.

Lake Wobegon, as wonderful as it sounds, is fictional.

Each child we have the blessing to educate is unique. Each child, as I recently heard from education thought leader and bestselling author Sir Kenneth Robinson, “is a fountain of possibilities.” The young people in our schools can’t be considered to be outputs. As educators we must cultivate the right conditions for learning; we must find each child’s passion, talent, and creativity. As educators we must capitalize on the great diversity in our schools and guide young people to find their talents with an eye toward using these to positively contribute to society.

I am not opposed to accountability or assessments; I believe we should continually assess students on individual progress. I believe data is essential in directing instruction and evaluating performance. Statistical analysis is necessary at a classroom and building level. I also believe that we must take individual differences, developmental differences, and life experiences into account.

There is no – none, zero, zilch – assessment that can accurately assess all children.

There is no one-size-fits-all test, fix, or easy way to measure student academic performance. It is difficult, challenging and messy work. We must abandon the idea that we can fix education with more money, a new program, and a piece of legislation. You can’t legislate learning any more than you can legislate love; learning is organic, it happens when passion meets opportunity, when a great teacher creates an amazing experience for students to embrace.

Let’s commit ourselves to the monumental challenge of making educationpersonal for each child. Let’s tap into the passion, talent, and drive of parents, communities, and our dedicated educators nation-wide and explore every opportunity to motivate each individual student in our care. We must celebrate our diversity – the amazing differences in background, experiences, talents, abilities, and beliefs – and capitalize on opportunities to prepare each student for success after public education. We know we need a diversified workforce to drive our economy. We don’t need every student to be the same; we need every graduate to have skills, passion, and desire to be ready for productive lives as adults.

Our current school structure works very well for a certain segment of our population; it fits their personal learning styles and they flourish in the experiences a traditional school offers. Our current structure is inadequate and antiquated for some students in our education system – we must seek different opportunities to cultivate the personal styles and needs for these students. As Ken Robinson reminds us, “we all started with the miracle of birth and each life is a unique, unprecedented moment in history.”

Each child is gifted in some unique way; each child has a passion, each child is creative, and every student in our schools deserves the opportunity to write his or her own compelling and engaging success story – utilizing a unique voice no government mandate or standardized test could possibly measure.

All of our children are above average . . . just not in the same areas.

Exciting News about SAT and KHAN ACADEMY!

Exciting news: We’re partnering with the College Board so that all students who want to go to college can prepare for the SAT at their own pace, at no cost.

The College Board just announced that they’re redesigning the SAT for 2016, and we’re partnering with them to make free, world-class prep materials. Know anyone preparing for the SAT?

By spring 2015, you’ll have access to state-of-the-art, interactive learning tools that give you deep practice and help you diagnose your gaps. All of this will be created through a close collaboration with the College Board specifically for the redesigned SAT. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you are taking the SAT in 2014/15, you can start practicing today with hundreds of previously unreleased Math, Reading, and Writing questions from real SATs and more than 200 videos that show step-by-step solutions to each question:

Our goal is nothing short of leveling the playing field for every student taking the SAT, so please help us reach as many people as possible.

Common Core Overview of Different Views

This is one of the best overviews I have seen that covers the multifaceted views on Common Core.  I believe that the purpose of the commonality of standards is fantastic but the implementation has created unease amongst parents and a failure to convince the public that it is for the good of kids!  Once again and/or still, it is up to individual teachers to be the one difference for children’s educational success.  ~Sandy


Education experts debate Common Core’s value

  • Sandhya Kambhampati, Scripps National Desk
  • Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:56 a.m.

On any given day, Rian Meadows is up checking emails, texts, and grading assignments, and answering her “lifeline,” the phone, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Meadows is a government and economics teacher at Florida Virtual School, where students work at their own pace and join her class through live lessons through Adobe Connect or Blackboard. In Florida, the State Board of Education adopted changes to customize Common Core and create their own standards.

“I think everyone has growing pains — new things can be scary and outside of a comfort zone,” she said. “I’ve been in education for going on 14 years and good teaching practices have always been around. These standards are things I’ve been doing all along.”

In Florida, graduating high school students in 2015 must take one online course. Meadows said these online courses are ready made for individualized education plans, as they allow the student to have mastery of content. Under the standards, Meadows teaches economics with financial literacy to her 12th-grade students.

This mastery of skills that will allow students to be college and career ready is what the Common Core aims to build.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, whose members are state education officials, in 48 states to identify and develop a common set of college and career ready standards for K-12 in mathematics and English language arts in 2009.

The standards were pushed by growing concern that a large number of high school graduates need remedial college help. In order to motivate education reform, President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signaled to states that they should embrace these standards or similar if they hoped to win a grant through the Race to the Top program in 2009.

Currently, 44 states have adopted and are implementing the standards. Minnesota has adopted the English Language Arts standards, but not the mathematics standards. Texas, Alaska, Nebraska are among those who did not adopt the standards.

How Common Core standards were implemented

The implementation of how Common Core standards are taught, the materials and curriculum development is led by the state and local levels. According to the Common Core official website, the standards don’t dictate how teachers should teach but rather establish what skills students need to learn.

Teachers will create their own lesson plans and curriculum and tailor their teaching to meet the needs of individuals and meet the standards. The standards look to build English and math skills as those areas are used to build skill sets for other subjects.

Public schools have begun administering Common Core tests to students of all ages, but Common Core officials say the test scores won’t be counted. The tests will allow education officials to judge the quality of the test questions and technical administering capabilities of the schools.

In most states, state law gives the state boards of education the authority to establish or adopt the academic standards. Certain states, such as Nevada, Maine and Texas and Vermont, require legislative action.

Some have chosen to implement the Common Core standards, but under another name and other states have repealed the standards.

For example, Arizona’s is called, “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.”

INTERACTIVE: Click here for a closer look at each state’s implementation.

MAP: Each state’s implementation of Common Core

Adopting the standards

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the standards, pulling in representatives from each of the school districts in the state, along with higher education specialists.

Karen Kidwell, director, division of program standards at the Kentucky Department of Education said the teachers have been supportive and enjoyed that they’ve been able to work and share across network lines for the first time.

More than 90 percent of school boards support Common Core, according to a poll by the Kentucky School Boards Association in Nov. 2013. The results also showed 97 percent of teachers are teaching curriculum aligned with Common Core.

During the first year, test scores dropped because of higher demands of the students, said Kidwell.

“We know that its a challenge, but our educators have been very committed to the process,” she said. “They are leading the way in terms of working together and seeking out really excellent resources and building their own resources to ensure that students stay in the center. We constantly ask the question, ‘Is what we’re designing really going to be better for kids?’”

It is estimated that Kentucky would need a minimum of $35 million to create and fully implement new standards, according the state’s department of education.

Changing standards

While some state have chosen to continue using the Common Core standards, others have repealed the standards and replaced them with their own standards.

On March 24, Indiana became the first state to withdraw out of the controversial grades K-12 guidelines.

While it was one of the first states to adopt the standards in 2010, opposition to the guidelines has been growing since Governor Mike Pence took office in 2012. The state began to move away from the standards last year.

“I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level,” said Gov. Pence in a statement. “By signing this legislation, Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high, and I commend members of the General Assembly for their support.”

According to the Associated Press, retired University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky released an internal Indiana Department of Education report which found more than 70 percent of the standards for 6th through 12th grade are directly from Common Core. Stotsky was hired by Pence to assess the new program.

“Because we are trying to teach the same vocal and grammar and phonics skills, it isn’t terribly shocking that there’s an overlap,” said Timothy Shanahan, distinguished professor emeritus, University of Illinois at Chicago, who helped draft the standards and served on the advisory board for the English language arts part. “In fact, it would be shocking if there wasn’t an overlap. It’s a bit of nonsense on her part.”

On his website, Shanahan wrote, “I support the CCSS standards because they are the best reading standards I’ve ever seen (and, yes, I am aware of their limitations and flaws). But if anyone comes up with better standards, I’d gladly support those, too (no matter how uncommonly high the Hoosiers might have been who wrote them).”

The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposal on April 28.

“Hopefully we will be more growth-based, instead of measuring exam scores,” said David Galvin, executive director of communications at the Indiana Department of Education.

People behind the scenes

Jason Zimba, a lead writer of the Common Core standards for mathematics, said Common Core is allowing teachers across the country to collaborate and share lessons in ways they have never before. With this in mind, however, he said, there is no single “right” way to teach these standards.

“In both ELA and Mathematics, having more focused, higher standards will allow teachers to focus on critical knowledge, concepts and skills that will provide a stronger foundation for more advanced work and eventually for college and careers,” he said.

Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among the strong supporters of the standards. On March 16, advertisements ran on FOX News and right-of-center news outlets showcasing the support from the business community and outspoken conservatives.

Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence of Education, which supports the standards said the foundation believes “if you expect more, you get more.”

The key point in Common Core, she said, is that these standards are the expectations to be met by the end of year and that the end goal, ultimately, is preparing these students for college.

Under the new standards, in Florida for example, kindergarten students should be able to count to 100, count by tens to 100 and count from 36 to zero backwards, she said. Under the old standards, kindergarteners were required to count up to 20.

According to the ACT, who helped in the process of establishing the standards to make students college and career ready, data has shown that many students are graduating from high school without the skills they need to succeed at the next level.

In the 2012 U.S. grad class, 1.66 million students took the ACT, earning an average composite score of 21.1 (on the 1 to 36 score scale). In the 2013 U.S. grad class, 1.8 million students took the exam, earning an average composite score of 20.9.

“The ACT is and has been curriculum based,” said Paul Weeks, vice president for customer engagement. “Our involvement was providing the research and evidence to be college and career ready.”

Newsy: Common Core 101 – A Quick Look At Education Reform

Among students in last year’s ACT-tested U.S. high school graduating class (1.8 million students), 39 percent met three or four of the four benchmarks, while 47 percent met one or none of the benchmarks, according to ACT officials.

Growing controversy

Shanahan, who currently trains teachers around the country on the English standards, said that even if states aren’t participating in the standards, if they end up standards just as high it might be okay. But pushback from people who say the same skills aren’t need across the board is difficult to understand, he said.

“The notion that the kid in Arkansas doesn’t need the same skills as some kid in New York doesn’t make much sense,” he said. “Common Core allows textbook companies to stop trying to meet requirements of dozens of states, but rather focus on quality. As a result, tests are more reflective of that. It’s the first time that we’re telling the truth for parents.”

Because Common Core would result in national consistency in standards, this would be the first time that students of military families wouldn’t have the same learning “dislocation” that they had before, he said.

In his training, Shanahan said that some teachers have fears about not being prepared to implement these skills. On any given day, he trains teachers for a day or a half-day, which he says is not enough time. He suggests schools use ongoing training to implement the new standards into their curriculum.

“I think its interesting that so much of the controversy around it has nothing to do with Common Core,” Shanahan said. “Many of the complaints — how it was adopted or who adopted it or the testing or scheme for collecting data for schools — are somehow linked to Common Core – and yet people aren’t looking at the standards and saying it’s a bad standard. The arguments are more about process, but not about what kids need to learn which is what’s really important.”

A peer-reviewed study by a researcher found that states whose previous standards more closely matched the Common Core tended to have higher National Assessment of Educational Progress scores. The study also found that Common Core agrees with high performing countries better than any previous state standards.

It’s these skills that link them to appeal to supporters such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Let me tell you something. In Asia today, they don’t care about children’s self esteem. They care about math, whether they can read — in English — whether they understand why science is important, whether they have the grit and determination to be successful,” he told the Miami Herald.

Levesque agrees with Bush, as she said her son and daughter aren’t just competing with Fla. or Ga. kids, but are competing internationally for jobs in the future. She said too many parents seem to be concerned about the self-esteem of their children and aren’t thinking about the future of his/her education.

“In America, we tend to be more concerned how little Johnny is feeling,instead of how we are providing him with the education so that he can be a competent grade level reader,” she said.

A tempest brews on the standards

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has said that implementation of Common Core is “far worse” than Obamacare.

But what concerns her most is that implementation has been messed up and there is fixation to test, instead of teaching.

“Not everything is frozen in the process of education through this transition,” she said. “I don’t know any other business or endeavor which is so, so important that we don’t allow a transition and that’s why there’s so much agida.”

As a result, she said there is a great distrust in the standards.

Donna Harris-Aikens, director of the education policy and practice department at the National Education Association said educators need to pay attention to transition time and realign their standards to make sure that support for students is there, as they are going through this transition along with the teachers.

Those against Common Core believe it’s a federal takeover of local education and some believe it’s a way for the government to get more data. As a result, disputes are spreading across the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than 200 bills on the national standards were introduced this year and around half would either stop or slow implementation.

Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Kentucky, all have measures in their state legislators to halt and if possible, abolish the standards.

In Ohio, homemaker Mary Capella got involved with Ohioans Against Common Core because she felt the government is data mining her children.

She said some parents are in the dark for what their kids are doing in school.

Some who oppose the standards take issue with the tests and how the results will be used as the tests are designed to replace the annual state assessments.

Christina Brown, senior director for instruction and assessment at the Center for Collaborative Education, said that Common Core can change the way we think about the role of students and teachers in assessment practices and move towards more open-ended assessments.

According to the Washington Post, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state school superintendents said he found it “fascinating” that some opposition to the standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

Anthony Cody, a former teacher and co-founder of the Network of Public Education who identifies himself as a progressive, said there’s a “grain of truth” to Duncan’s statement, as the tests are “stigmatizing high poverty schools, but also suburban schools.”

In his mind, the most fundamental problem with the standards is that they are designed to rank.

“I have lost my capacity for good will for the people who are running the education reform in this country, after seeing No Child Left Behind,” he said. “If three-fourths of the students are failing, I would see this as a disaster and a catastrophe. They are perfectly happy to see public schools fail and are exploiting this disaster to promote changes.”