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Local Educators Tackling New Common Core Standards Head On

02/26/2015 03:51PM ● Published by Style

Education has come a long way since the three R’s—reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic. Today, schools are teaching core subjects with a new set of standards called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Approved in 2012 by the California Department of Education, the new standards are being implemented in English and math for approximately 6.2 million students in grades K-12 throughout the state.

To date, 44 states have adopted the CCSS. Having the same standards benefits students nationwide, by offering a consistent education—even if they change schools or move to a different state. 

Educators agree that the new standards provide a practical way to prepare children for life’s challenges by learning the real-world skills they will need, step-by-step.

“What we’re trying to achieve with the Common Core is to help students do more than simply memorize facts,” says Giorgos Kazanis, public information officer with the California Department of Education. “We want them to engage, to think critically and to solve problems.” The Common Core was designed to retain the best content from previous standards and replace outdated ways of learning. “The new standards provide teachers the time to teach them well,” Kazanis explains, “[which] takes a different kind of teaching than the scripted lessons, the routine question-and-response we saw with the old standards.”

 


Schools and teachers are taking on the Common Core standards with determination. Dave Scroggins, director of curriculum and instruction for the Rescue Union School District, says he feels that the new standards are better overall. “A variety of academic skills are emphasized, such as the ability to locate and cite evidence in different forms of text,” he explains. “The ability to think critically and explain or justify that thinking to others, as well as perseverance in solving challenging mathematical problems [are other] skills called to the forefront.”

The Rescue Union School District, like many districts, has spent time training its teachers on the CCSS content and expectations. “Early-release Mondays are used to provide staff development around the Common Core,” Scroggins says. “Several of our teachers have [even] received additional training and currently serve as Common Core expert teachers for the El Dorado County Office of Education.” 

Parents, however, have not readily welcomed the Common Core, due to its radically different approach, and voice frustration in trying to help their grade-school-age kids with math homework. They say that with the new conceptual math—not just learning that two plus two equals four, but how the numbers actually relate to each other—simple arithmetic has become as complicated as calculus. Many school districts are making an effort to communicate more with parents, such as offering workshops for them to learn the new math alongside their children.

Kazanis says that on the whole, the implementation has been successful so far.  “The feedback we have received has been largely positive,” he reports. “That’s not to say we haven’t encountered challenges along the way, but that’s to be expected from a change affecting more than six million students statewide.”

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