Walking through the halls of our District 181 schools, an adult who has been out of school many years will see familiar sights. A quiet classroom as each student silently reads a book. A lesson in painting and how to play the recorder. A teacher leading the class in multiplication and division. There may be new sights, too. A student at a digital whiteboard demonstrating the rationale supporting her answer to an algebraic equation. Teachers collaborating during their plan period to review student assessment data. Students working in small groups on projects differentiated to specifically meet their instructional level and interests for that lesson. A pair of boys sharing their original poetry with the world through an Internet broadcast.

Today’s classroom is rooted in the same fundamentals that took us all through our early years, but our students are also prepared for a 21st century their parents and grandparents could never have imagined. We know more today than we knew yesterday. We have better insight into how students learn and what they need to know to be ready for college and careers. That is the focus of the Common Core State Standards – to build upon the most advanced current thinking around the globe and move even the best state standards to the next level.

Some mistakenly believe the Common Core standards define how teachers should teach, when in fact the standards are designed to define what all students are expected to know and be able to do. Their focus is on outcomes. Our role as educators in a state where the standards have been adopted is to translate the standards into an engaging and effective curriculum. Our role is to support teachers in mastering the curriculum and strengthening their teaching practices. Our role is to select the resources (i.e. digital content, textbooks) aligned with that curriculum. Our role is also to create an assessment plan that combines quantitative and qualitative data to report and record our progress and student growth, refine our curriculum, instruction, and services, and assist teachers in effectively tailoring their instruction.

What are the Common Core State Standards?

“The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.” -

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) establish a national-level understanding of what students should know and be able to do from Kindergarten through 12th grade. 45 states, Washington D.C. and four territories have adopted the CCSS. Illinois has joined with 21 states to create a consortium called PARCC (pronounced “park”) (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). The PARCC states have developed a set of computer-based common assessments for English Language Arts and math. In 2014-15, the PARCC Assessment will replace the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which was based on the Illinois Learning Standards created in 1997. -

Why CCSS? (From the Illinois State Board of Education)

  • Our expectations for what students must know and be able to demonstrate were different in 1997.
  • The new standards aim to provide clear, consistent academic benchmarks with “fewer, clearer and higher” academic standards for essential learning and skills. The standards were developed while considering the standards of top performing countries and the strengths of current state standards.
  • The New Illinois Learning Standards Incorporating the Common Core provide benchmarks for academic progress (skills and knowledge) that students should have at the conclusion of each grade level. This will allow teachers to establish the best approach to help their students meet those standards.
  • Students and parents will clearly understand the knowledge students are expected to attain each year.

What does this mean for District 181? How is District 181 preparing for this change?

As the new standards are released for each content area, we work to identify curriculum revision needs. Language arts and math standards were released first. We completed our curriculum revision for English Language Arts and look forward to next finalizing the math revisions. As part of this process, we also review our materials, including textbooks, workbooks, and online resources. Our new language arts materials for K-5 were piloted in 2012-13 and are being implemented this school year. For K-5 math, we have been using a specially-designed Common Core supplement and online tools along with our existing materials to ensure our students continue to move forward in their learning. We are currently in the midst of a pilot of new math materials.


Our staff members continue to be trained both by colleagues and outside professionals to effectively teach the standards through the revised curriculum and with the tools we have provided.

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