Things will get better in time is one philosophy that could apply to the Common Core Learning Standards.
For the Jamestown Public Schools, this will be the third year students will be given Common Core tests, but only the second year curriculum modules will be used by teachers.
Annette Miller, Jamestown Public Schools English language arts kindergarten through eighth-grade coordinator, and Denise Pusateri, Jamestown Public Schools mathematics kindergarten through 12th-grade coordinator, said the modules are tools used for learning the Common Core standards.
Miller said the modules help break down what students should be learning daily, monthly and yearly. Pusateri added the modules are complex, but strive for a higher level of thinking by students.
In the first year of using the modules, there were growing pains, Pusateri said. However, by the end of last school year, teachers were becoming more comfortable with the new curriculum modules. She said with the one year of experience, teachers will have a better understanding of what students need to master each step of the curriculum.
“They will know where they are going,” Pusateri said.
Another reasons teachers will be better prepared is because of the professional development workshops that were held throughout the summer in the Jamestown school district. Pusateri said last year, there was limited professional development for teachers in understanding the new curriculum modules. However, this summer there were hours and hours of professional development workshops available to district teachers.
“It was more like an institute,” Miller said about the in-depth Common Core professional development workshops offered this summer.
In fact, the companies that developed the Common Core curriculum modules were the ones assisting teachers in the development workshops. The companies will also be offering more professional development workshops this fall for teachers unable to attend during the summer.
As for students, both Miller and Pusateri said they too will be more comfortable during the second year of modules. Miller said with one less item to adjust to – the Common Core modules – students will be able to focus more on what they are learning instead of how they are being taught.
“They are learning to understand the goals,” Miller said. “They are owning their own learning.”
Both Jamestown administrators said the new Common Core lessons are taught using more team exercises. In the past, learning lessons were more isolated than with Common Core modules. The team exercises lead to more participation by students, they said.
Parents also play a role in understanding the new curriculum. Pusateri said the modules in math have changed to adapt to what other countries – like Singapore – are doing because they are seeing more success from their students. Pusateri said this can lead to parents being confused by what their children are learning.
“The parents are frustrated because they’re not seeing what they were taught,” Pusateri said.
Miller added parents just want to be able to assist their children at home with their school work. This is one reason the district hosts parent support nights.
“Parents are looking for their own tools to help,” Miller said. “(Our) goal is to share more information with parents.”
Miller said now with two years of testing completed, school administrators will have more data to assist in preparing students.
“We will use exam information to see how students meet target standards,” Miller said. “It is extremely helpful in learning and growing from one day to the next.”
FALCONER CENTRAL SCHOOLS
Like in Jamestown, more experience with the Common Core modules will lead to more comfort for all involved.
Stephen Penhollow, Falconer Central School District superintendent, said his district has adapted Common Core modules around educational items they feel the state hasn’t given enough focus. He said going into another year with the state’s modules will make adapting other materials easier for teachers.
“Seeing that the modules don’t cover enough and need support from other outside materials, (teachers) will have a much better understanding what role the (Common Core) curriculum plays,” he said.
As for students, Penhollow said in his experience students usually adapt to new experiences easier than administrators and teachers.
“Much like our staff, (students) will have a much better understanding,”
Penhollow said the district had a number of parent meetings last year to assist them with learning the new standards. He said they will continue parent meetings this year to provide Common Core information and how to find information to assist their children.
“I think the (state Education Department) left out the parent connection piece,” he said. “That is the message we heard from our families and we understand. We will focus on keeping the line of communication open so (parents) can ask questions and see what (students) are doing in the classroom.”