The new national Common Core Standards for schools, soon to replace current state standards, have some school leaders concerned about unfunded mandates and major content changes.
But Delaware City School District Superintendent Paul Craft said critics of the new standards are not on target with their criticisms.
Delaware has been a Race to the Top district since August 2010. The state of Ohio was awarded $400 million from the U. S. Department of Education to use over a four-year period in order to begin realigning current curricula to the new national standards.
Delaware received funds as part of Race to the Top and will be prepared in 2014 for the transition to the new standards, Craft said.
He said the new standards will mean that all students will be evaluated by the same assessments nationally, which will enable educators to compare results between states and even internationally.
"The closest unmandated federal tests we have are the NAEP tests. These enable us to compare ourselves with other states, as well as other countries," Craft said. "This has always been a higher standard than our state's standard."
Craft said the new standards do not dictate classroom content as some critics have said. Craft said only the standards are changing, not the content.
"The content is not being driven by the standards," he said. "We will have as much freedom in the classroom as we have now to direct content."
For example, the new standards may say students need to read a certain percentage more of nonfiction books -- but it does not dictate which nonfiction books the students must read.
Craft said some critics think Common Core will cost taxpayers more money, and added for some areas, that is true -- but in Delaware, it won't cost any more.
"We have been fortunate to be a Race to the Top district, which gave us funds to work on realigning our standards to the new standards," he said. "We didn't have to use local funds."
Craft said he understands and sympathizes with residents who may resent a "mandate from the top," but added that Common Core will be beneficial.
"These new standards will raise the expectations of all students," he said. "It will drive us to push ourselves and our students harder. It will make it more rigorous, which is a good thing."
Students in the past who have been considered "advanced" will not necessarily be advanced with the new assessments, Craft said.
"Some will not be considered proficient when the new standards come out because the passing level will have been raised," he said. "This will drive our kids to push themselves."
Craft said although this may be difficult at first, he believes it's a great thing for the district, the state and the country.
"This is a challenge that we embrace and accept," he said. "We will be able to move forward and be able to raise the standards to what other countries are doing internationally."