The new Common Core standards — an initiative that seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following standards-based education reform — cannot drive real, widespread improvement unless they are coupled with a push to redesign how schools actually work for students and teachers.
The Common Core Standards are an initiative that seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following standards-based education reform. According to the authors, “Nowhere is the need for redesign [of how schools work] greater or more urgent than in American high schools. In the context of the Common Core, high schools will be charged with educating all students to achieve much higher levels of skill and knowledge, a monumental challenge. At the same time, high schools will continue to be responsible for meeting the learning needs of large numbers of students who enter ninth grade performing significantly below grade level. To meet that dual demand, schools will need to do two things simultaneously: accelerate all students’ learning to reach higher levels and use recuperative strategies to help underprepared students catch up” (p.1-2). (Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

• “Serving approximately 400 students each, the Secondary Schools of Choice (SSCs) are nonselective, or open to students at all levels of academic achievement, and located in high need neighborhoods—in other words, designed to enroll the disadvantaged and underserved student populations that had formerly attended the failing schools" (p.6). • “In a rigorous experimental study that matched SSC students with peers placed by lottery into other New York City high schools, MDRC found that the SSCs increased four-year graduation rates by 8.6 percentage points, from 59.3 percent of students who attended other schools to 67.9 percent for SSC enrollees. Explaining the significance of that effect, the MDRC report authors explain that the increase is ‘roughly equivalent’ in size to one-third of New York City’s gap in graduation rates between white students and students of color” (p.6-7). • “A network of 76 early-college high schools created across North Carolina since 2005 provides another example of the power of school design at scale (p.6)…Unlike the SSCs in New York, the North Carolina early-college high schools admit students on a selective basis, yet each is designed according to North Carolina New Schools Project’s (NCNSP) five principles for high school innovation and puts a priority on serving students from groups underrepresented in higher education: students of color, English language learners, students from low-income families, and first-generation college goers. The network has shown impressive results, achieving a four-year graduation rate of 93.5 percent in 2012. NCNSP is expanding the model into 18 traditional rural high schools, with support from a U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation grant and other funders” (p.7). • “Today’s school designers can also look to school models that incorporate blended learning to expand and enhance the capacity of teachers, particularly for integrating recuperative and accelerative strategies within students’ individualized learning programs” (p.13). (Abstractor: Author)