New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards
Issues of Implementation
The core curriculum content standards are intended for virtually all students. The term "all students" includes students who are college-bound, career-bound, academically talented, those whose native language is not English, those with disabilities, students with learning deficits, and students from diverse socioeconomic (disadvantaged or advantaged) backgrounds. It conveys a commitment that female and male students will achieve at comparable levels across all areas. For certain profoundly handicapped students, few if any of these standards will apply. However, the majority of special needs students should have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) which is linked to the curriculum standards. They may address the core curriculum at different levels of depth and may complete the core curriculum according to different timetables. In addition, those students who can do more than achieve this set of expectations must be afforded the opportunity and encouraged to do so.
Insistence on a core curriculum means that every student will be involved in experiences addressing all of the expectations of all of the content standards. All schools should have as a common goal that their students will complete this core curriculum, no matter how students are grouped or separated by needs and/or interests. We must provide all students with appropriate challenges so that the raised expectations for all students do not result in lowered expectations for the exceptionally able.
The standards will not result in major improvements unless there is a commitment to their implementation throughout each district and in every school. The staff of each school and at each grade level will have to make decisions about which standards should be their initial focus, and about where to focus their energies in subsequent years. Changing a school's instructional programs to implement the vision of these standards will be a continuous, ongoing process.
District and school administrators will need to create opportunities for teachers to meet together regularly, possibly through the scheduling of common planning times. They should actively encourage teachers in their explorations and provide resources to support such activities. For example, administrators can provide more flexible scheduling, permit extended periods for projects, and schedule contiguous periods for collaboration among teachers from different disciplines. They can also make meaningful professional development for teachers an important priority. In addition, these managers can reach out to corporations, individuals, and groups in the community to provide a variety of learning activities inside and outside of school, including video conferencing and distance learning.
The faculty and other school personnel will need to review and explore together the content and expectations of the standards. They should discuss what each standard and indicator means, the extent to which their educational program matches curricular expectations, and the steps they can take to close the gap, if any, between current student performance and the desired levels of achievement. In addition, the faculty should explore new teaching strategies in their own classrooms that will result in high achievement by all students, and discuss these results with colleagues. They should also insure that instruction based on the standards provides for continuity and reinforcement of learning from earlier grades, and for content which proceeds to suitable levels of difficulty and abstraction. Other steps the faculty can take include developing their own recommendations for how the school or district can begin to move toward the vision conveyed by the standards. For example, each educator could encourage other members of the school community to hold high expectations for all students.
Local boards of education need to make a concerted effort to provide professional development activities that enable classroom teachers to achieve the goals of this document. Teachers will need to understand and utilize new content material at all grade levels, to participate in orientations on implementation of the cross-content workplace readiness standards, to develop technology skills, and to develop new strategies for helping all students achieve success. One such strategy that is dependent on board initiative is the introduction of technology as a routine tool for teaching and learning. Staff will need both extensive assistance through expanded professional development opportunities, and encouragement from their administration and board of education to take advantage of these opportunities.
Community individuals and organizations must also be active participants in the educational process if the standards are to be achieved. Since business and industry reap the benefits of a quality education, this sector has an important stake in educational outcomes. They should contribute to strengthening the educational program by providing experiences and part-time jobs for students, sharing human resources to extend classroom learning, promoting professional development, and joining partnerships for funding or special activities.
State and local assessments must reflect the nature of the new standards. New Jersey will continue to refine its statewide assessment program to reflect the core curriculum content standards, including both the content standards and the cross-content workplace readiness standards. The eleventh grade High School Proficiency Test (HSPT) and the eighth grade Early Warning Test (EWT) already reflect the higher order skills signaled by the core curriculum content standards. Moreover, the new fourth-grade statewide assessment will embody the new standards and will supersede commercial standardized achievement tests, which tend to reinforce a less challenging curriculum. Since not every indicator, however, can be assessed through a statewide standardized written examination, districts will be involved in measuring the attainment of some performance expectations outlined in the standards.
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