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Education Nation: Common Core a blueprint for success


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NEW YORK CITY — Monday marks the beginning of the NBC News education summit in New York. KSL anchor Nadine Wimmer is out there with the best of the best educators in the United States, including a teacher from Utah, to bring you the latest in developments in education from the summit, and how they affect Utah, along with other important issues that have an impact on our children's chances for success in learning.

Common Core standards

In an effort to improve our nation's education system and make students better prepared for college and careers, a new set of standards is now sweeping across classrooms throughout the United States. It's an approach call the Common Core and it has been heavily discussed at the Education Nation summit.

Utah began implementing Common Core two years ago. In fact, a Utah teacher took a sabbatical to help write the curriculum. The methodology is changing the way teachers teach and students learn.

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Gone are the days when teachers stood at the front of the class and students memorized facts and figures. Now, students are trying to figure out "how" and "why" using critical thinking skills dictated by the new common core.

"I'm excited that I'm going to be teaching my sixth graders the same things they are going to be learning in New York, in Florida in California," said Mary Jo Naylor, a 6th grade teacher at Eagle Bay Elementary, "because when that happens, text book writers are going to be focusing on the core."

The Common Core is a blue print for K-12th grade English and Math adopted by nearly every state. While there is no common curriculum, common core does two basic things: It raises academic standards nationwide and for the first time an "A" will mean the same thing for students everywhere.

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Critics view the program as a federal intrusion into state sovereignty. But a Utah teacher who helped develop the curriculum says that is a fallacy often thrown out as a political time bomb.

"Universities and businesses were looking for a standard of excellence and measurement that they weren't getting," said Tim Bailey, a teacher at Northwest Middle School. "Common core provides that."

Utah adopted Core standards two years ago and state officials attribute a 2 percent statewide increase in CRT scores last year to the new curriculum.

"They are really providing opportunity to teachers to really improve what they are providing to students," said Judy part, an associate superintendent in the Utah Office of Education. "And I think the recent scores there is a direct correlation to the fact teachers are now teaching to the core."

Filling the gap in achievement

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That 2 percent increase in scores is incredibly important. With just a third of U.S. eighth graders proficient in math, reading and science, educators are looking beyond the classroom to fill the achievement gap.

Monday at the Education Nation summit, the discussion focused on how communities across the country are getting around the question of funding and helping students succeed. NBC invited Naylor, who has worked with KSL Read Today volunteers, to take part in that discussion. Statewide Read Today tutors donated nearly a million dollars in free tutoring.

Monday's summit highlighted other examples of team work in action. That is what it is going to take to improve education in Utah and around the country. Currently the U.S. is ranked 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading.

"We can't leave kids in failing neighborhood schools," said former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice during a speech.

45 states have turned to new Common Core higher education guidelines to help, but educators know those standards are just a start....


Schools, nonprofit, social service agencies, faith-based institutions, filling for optics sectors, the corporate sector — all of us have to make sure none of our children are falling through the cracks.

–Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education


"Schools, nonprofit, social service agencies, faith bases institutions, filling for optics sectors, the corporate sector — all of us have to make sure none of our children are falling through the cracks," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Teachers are also emphasizing perseverance and grit, changing how students process their struggles.

"I've fallen in love with a new word: ‘Yet,'" said Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University. "If a child says ‘I'm not good at math.' (You can reply) ‘Yet.'"

Even business leaders are weighing in discussing what they need from students entering the workplace.

"The critical thing is today they need more math and science skills and they need to know how to think critically," said Tom Luce with the nation Math and Science Initiative.

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Nadine Wimmer

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