Common Core Standards for Oregon Public Schools

Oregon along with over 40 other states switched from their own standards for reading, writing, math, science and social studies to a tougher set called the Common Core State Standards. Several states that initially adopted Common Core have since voted to repeal or replace it, including Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

Oregon schools fully implemented the Common Core in the 2013-2014 school year and  students, teachers and schools all will be judged by their scores on Common Core-aligned tests beginning in spring 2015. Their effects have been trickling into Oregon classrooms over the past year or two, but the 2013-2014 was the first school year that they had broad impact on students in nearly every district, officials say.

Intended to ensure that U.S. high school graduates are prepared for college and the workplace, the new standards call for schools to be more intellectually challenging at every grade level, starting with kindergarten. The big change is the teaching of critical thinking skills. It all about how to help students become better problem-solvers and thinkers.

Under the Common Core, students are asked to write more, and to articulate and defend their reasoning a lot more. They’re also expected to master skills such as multiplication, fractions and linear formulas at younger ages, use more advanced vocabulary, and read and synthesize a lot more nonfiction. 

Examples of differences between Oregon standards and Common Core

  • Kindergarten vocabulary: Students used to be taught about sides and corners of shapes. Now they’ll talk about vertices and angles. Students in all grades will use more advanced, more precise vocabulary.
  • Third-grade writing: Third-graders need to compare and contrast the main idea and key details from two pieces of writing on the same topic. Oregon standards introduced compare-and-contrast essays in grade four. Third-graders also need to write opinion pieces, citing evidence to support their positions. Oregon standards don’t require persuasive writing until grade five.
  • Multiplication and division: Oregon standards call for students to memorize multiplication and division facts up to 100 in fourth grade. Common Core moves that to grade three.
  • Fractions: Oregon standards call for fourth-graders to compare and order decimals and fractions. Common Core introduces fractions in grade three, saying students should be able to compare those with the same numerator or denominator, and calls for more complex work with fractions and decimals in grades four and five.
  • Writing in science and social studies: Every science and social studies class will require substantial amounts of writing, with teachers giving lessons on how to write well in their discipline.
  • Probability and statistics: Common Core requires middle and high school students to master statistics skills not covered by Oregon standards. Sixth-graders, for example, need to understand statistical variability, a more complex topic than Oregon eighth-graders have tackled.
  • Middle school math: Fewer students will be able to take Algebra I in eighth grade because mastering all the new seventh- and eighth-grade math skills plus beginning algebra in two years will require great deftness in math.
  • High school English: Students will need to develop the flexibility, concentration and experience to produce high-quality first drafts of analytical writing on tight deadlines. Oregon standards typically allow students unlimited time to write essays.
Source: Oregon Department of Education

Governors Push for Adopting Same Standards

The notion of encouraging states to adopt the same standards, and to ground them in what students need for college and what’s expected in some top-performing nations, germinated at the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Study after study showed that states had varying standards in reading and math, and that most, including Oregon, set the bar too low to detect whether student students were on track for college.

Even though Oregon’s standards were low, many students weren’t reaching them. Nevertheless, Oregon was one of the first to adopt the Common Core standards, which were written by researchers and academic experts and vetted by teachers, college professors and curriculum officials. Oregon’s Board of Education approved them in fall 2010, giving districts nearly four years to complete the switch.

Copyrighted Standards

The standards are copyrighted by NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers CCSSO). The copyright ensures that the standards will be the same throughout the nation, creating a de facto national curriculum. The standards also carry a generous public license that waives the copyright notice for State Departments of Education to use the standards; however, two conditions apply. First, the use of the standards must be “in support” of the standards and the waiver only applies if the state has adopted the standards “in whole.” This use of a copyright for public policy document is unprecedented in U.S. political history. The effect of the copyright and public license is consistency across the states; the standards cannot be changed or modified, creating in effect, a national curriculum.

Next Generation Science Standards

In April 2013, the final Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new set of voluntary, rigorous, and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education, were released. Oregon was one of 26 lead states that worked with Achieve and the standards writers to develop the NGSS.

On Thursday, March 6, 2014, the Oregon State Board of Education (SBE) voted unanimously to adopt the NGSS as the new Oregon Science Standards. The adoption includes the grade level middle school science standards sequence unanimously recommended by the Oregon Science Content and Assessment Panel that was developed under the leadership of the California Science Experts Panel. You can access the Oregon NGSS review report and materials provided to the SBE on the SBE website.

The new Oregon Science Standards (NGSS) will be phased in so that districts can implement changes in local curriculum, provide appropriate professional development for teachers and administrators, and provide students with opportunities to learn the content, practices, and concepts prior to assessment. 

New Testing System (Smarter Balance Assessment) Will Replace Oregon Assessment of Knowledge & Skills (OAKS) Test

Starting in 2015, Oregon schools will switch to new, harder tests of students’ reading, math and writing skills. A report out of Michigan in early December 2013 suggests Oregon’s choice for those exams, the Smarter Balanced tests, stands above other tests on the market, including choices from commercial publishers and from another state consortium similar to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium that Oregon helped form.

Oregon is among 17 states that have switched from old-school multiple-choice state reading and math tests to harder Smarter Balanced exams beginning with the 2014-1015 school year. The switch was motivated by two factors: Wanting a test that lines up better with what students need to know in college and the workplace and needing a test that matches the new Common Core State Standards that Oregon and most other states now use to guide teaching. The Oregon’s Board of Education unanimously chose Smarter Balanced as the state’s next official package of tests.

New tests are needed primarily because Oregon’s current tests, known as OAKS, don’t cover the skills schools must impart under the Common Core State Standards that Oregon mandated schools cover by 2014-15. Most districts have switched to those requirements, which include having students read more nonfiction, write more complex analysis and master math skills such as multiplication and linear equations at least a year earlier than they used to. Michigan’s legislature commissioned the extensive study of test options after controversy arose over the use of Common Core standards and tests in that state.