CORE Standards to better prepare Arizona students for college

Students wait in the registrar line in the Student Service Building on Tuesday afternoon.  New standards for high school graduation in Arizona may improve college admission rates for Arizona high school students.   (Photo by Murphy Bannerman) Students wait in the registrar line in the Student Service Building on Tuesday afternoon. New standards for high school graduation in Arizona may improve college admission rates for Arizona high school students. (Photo by Murphy Bannerman)

At the start of the 2013-14 school year, Arizona K-12 public schools will make the transition to the Common CORE Standards, a curriculum system with a major goal of increasing student preparation for college.

Arizona's students are underprepared for their future and the Common CORE Standards are being implemented to better prepare them to be successful in their futures, said Pearl Chang Esau president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, a nonprofit organization designed to promote the new standards.

"When we think about the path of education, it is making sure that students are able to think critically to solve problems, to be innovative and apply their knowledge to new situations they may not have encountered in the past," Esau said.

Thirty percent of Arizona students entering high school will not graduate, according to the Expect More Arizona website.

Of the students that do graduate from high school, 55 percent do not meet enrollment requirements to enter one of Arizona's public universities, according to Expect More Arizona. When these students actually enter college, 30 percent of them will require remedial coursework.

The Common CORE Standards at the high school level would require that students know geometry, statistics, algebra, probability, basics of numbers and other mathematical concepts, according to the Common CORE Standard's website.

In language, students would be required to learn how to use multimedia to prove points and understand perspectives and purposes.

The Common CORE standards are already used in 46 states and Washington, D.C.

The new standards in Arizona will be implemented at the start of the upcoming school year and their corresponding standardized assessment, which will be taking the place of the AIMS test, will be implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

These standards are more in line with the college entrance requirements and are supposed to allow students to have better success in their futures after high school.

David Burge, executive director of undergraduate admissions at ASU, said while current admission standards and requirements are not going to change, students will be better prepared to enter college.

"Aligning your K-12 standards to try to minimize (deficiencies) is going to improve the student's likelihood of not only being admitted but being successful," Burge said.

Aside from the changes in standards and testing, high school students already saw a change in graduation requirements this year with an additional math and science credit.

This requirement forces students to have four years of math and three years of science, which is a step closer to matching Arizona public universities' entrance requirements, Burge said.

"It is logical to assume that if somebody has four years of math that they should be better prepared for placement exams," Burge said.

Many ASU students attended high school in Arizona and were taught under the current standards and took the AIMS tests.

Swetha Swaminathan, a biomedical engineering freshman and AIMS Scholarship recipient, said that many students were not really prepared for college based on the current curriculum.

"A change in terms of math and reading would definitely prepare students better. Standards in math are already low and didn't prepare us so well," Swaminathan said.

Stephanie Frimer, a STEM technical adviser for the Science Foundation of Arizona — a foundation that supports science, technology, engineering and math education in Arizona — said that while the Common CORE Standards are good, educators must be cautious.

"I think everything going on is appropriate," Frimer said. "I think that if you look throughout history, every time there is a good idea or a good movement we kind of get stuck in the idea or the movement."

During the past 20 years many education movements have had brief moments of intense support, but the support wore out before the changes in students' learning could be seen, Frimer said.

The most recent education movement to be added to the list is Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, Arizona's previous education system. In addition to AIMS, education innovations integrated such as math and Hooked on Phonics have followed similar patterns, Frimer said.

"The concept was really good. It was just that they spent all their time on the (education program) rather than the structure of the school, the training and all the other pieces that help," Frimer said.

However, Frimer said, if the program is given time and the changes are made, students will be better prepared for college.

"If we fully implement the Common CORE, our students will be in a much better place then where they are at now," Frimer said. "The standards really work to make them critical thinkers."

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @shelbygslade

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.