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Curriculum | News

Foundations Look To Advance Common Core Curriculum

Two foundations are partnering to support Common Core State Standards through the development of both open and commercial digital instructional resources.

The Pearson Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Wednesday launched into a three-year initiative to fund an instructional system and 24 online courses--a "complete, foundational system of instruction" to be developed by Pearson--covering K-12 English/language arts and K-10 math. One course will be provided for each grade level. Four of those courses--two in each subject area in the early to middle high school grade levels--will be contributed as free and open resources through Gates Foundation funding "with the intent of widening access and spurring innovation around the Common Core," the groups reported.

In a press conference held today, Judy Codding, who will head up course development efforts for the initiative, explained that the courses will be "designed to engage and motivate" students and will incorporate social networking, gaming, video, and simulation, coupled with assessment and teacher professional development, both online and blended.

Codding emphasized the importance of engaging and motivating students as expectations from the students are increasing with the move to Common Core.

"I think what's critical in all this," she said today, "is we've had a lot of kids in our country who haven't met lesser standards. And so for us to have raised the bar, we have a tall task to bring all kids along. One of the concerns … is engaging and motivating students. We see [fewer] students being excited about they way they're learning in school. The kids who need the most support are the kids who are most alienated. And so one of the key design principles that we have is the motivation and engagement of kids. Because we can have all the best standards in the world and all the greatest assessments, but, if we can't engage and motivate kids, we're not going to win it."

Codding, former president and CEO of America's Choice, said all of the courses will be geared toward meeting the college- and career-ready goals of the Common Core State Standards.

Common Core State Standards are designed to provide a national, consistent set of academic standards as an alternative to those previously developed by individual states. As of this writing, 42 states, along with the District of Columbia and the United States Virgin Islands, have adopted the standards, according to information posted on the CCSS site.

"This project is an innovative way to support teachers by providing tools they need to help students meet the new standards," said Vicki Phillips, director of education, college ready, for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in a statement released this morning. "The Pearson Foundation has assembled an amazing international team to meet the goals articulated by the new Common Core [State] Standards. We look forward to partnering in the development and dissemination of these much needed resources."

The Gates Foundation's initial investment will be $3 million, according to Phillips, who spoke at this morning's press conference as well. Gates also recently pumped $3 million into ASCD to help that organization's efforts to make Common Core State Standards more accessible to educators and administrators.

The plan with Pearson also calls for the potential development of additional materials that will coordinate with the instructional system Pearson's developing, some from third-party developers.

Codding said the initial group of courses will be made available in 2013, "before the Common Core Standards are implemented." She also said the courses will be field-tested in a variety of districts beginning in the late fall with some individual units. The complete system of courses is expected to be completed in December 2013 and ready for the 2014-2015 school year, she indicated.

"These new courses will be the first designed from the bottom up to meet the new learning goals established by the Common Core Standards," said Mark Nieker, president of the Pearson Foundation. "These goals are essential to make sure American students have the best chance possible to succeed when they graduate high school. The courses will be developed to increase student engagement and will focus on the essential understanding of the concepts that inform Math and Language Arts. The key learning behaviors of collaboration, the appropriate use of technology, and real-world engagement--that educators agree are already defining college and workforce success--are integrated with the content."

Pearson will provide the courses to districts and offer additional services, including teacher professional development and assessments.

Further details are available on the Pearson Foundation site here.

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