Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Observations From the DPS Common Core Session for Middle and High School

We attended the DPS middle/high school session on the new Common Core Standards on Monday Night.  After some early technical difficulties with video, the session was a decent primer on what common core is about--Common Core addresses Language Arts and Math K-12. Other courses (science, social studies etc.) fall under the new NC Essential Standards, which are all found, along with Common Core, at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/acre/standards/).  There were fewer specifics on implementation, but some of those details (and all of our personal questions) were addressed through the Q and A session following the initial presentation.  DPS has a link on its main page (see the Crossing the Bridge logo).  The link they have on this page leads you to additional resources.  http://www.dpsnc.net/programs-services/academics/curriculum-instruction-and-assessment

If you couldn't attend and are interested, we will just make a few observations and report on a few items that stood out:

About Math:We were particularly interested in learning more about the secondary math sequence.  There were many questions about math last night, particularly for advanced learners.  In general, the math standards are more rigorous than our current standards.  This is what we learned:

1) If you are currently in Algebra I (in middle or high school), you will continue with the sequence of Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II.  Teachers teaching these courses will be infusing those courses with Common Core practices.  Students who will start their High School Math Sequence next year (whether in middle or high school), will start with Common Core I (replaces Algebra I). 

2) Students who are advanced math learners in Middle School will take compacted math courses 6th grade Plus (covers 6th grade and part of 7th) and 7th grade Plus (covers rest of 7th and part of 8th) leading to Common Core I in 8th grade.  Most students in DPS will take the more rigorous Grade 6, 7, & 8 standards preparing them for Common Core I in the 9th grade.

3) Some students, who meet the more rigorous criteria, will be able to take Common Core I in 7th grade, but this will likely be fewer students than take the course currently as the demands of Common Core I are greater than the current Algebra course.  (This appears to be the approach of other local districts as well.)  EVAAS scores (a predictive program developed by SAS) and other measures will be used to determine eligibility.

3) None of the changes affect whether a student meets high school graduation requirements or receives credit.  so, Algebra I and Common Core I provide the same credit.  These apparently should not affect college admission either as this is a change for 45 states and D.C.

A few general observations:  Other countries (who are kicking our American butts academically), usually explore fewer topics, but go much deeper into those topics with application and using the material.  This is the direction that Core Standards are supposed to take us.

--Language Arts will become more a part of all courses with writing, reading, etc.

--Greater emphasis on more complex texts and using non-fiction, informational texts and producing arguments, evaluating sources and evidence, etc. Part of the idea here is that our college and work lives demand a much higher level of ability to understand and evaluate complex non-fiction texts that our current standards do not emphasize.

--More emphasis on using multiple texts, so studying Africa and reading articles, a piece of literature, a biography, using maps etc. as part of this study as opposed to just reading a textbook.

--Math will be much more rigorous and integrated, so this will bring Geometic concepts into Algebra in Common Core I, rather than separating Math out into discrete bundles as most of us were taught.  Problem solving and application will be emphasized throughout.

--Testing is about to undergo a transformation in math and language arts as well, with a shift to new national online assessments that are supposed to be in place by 2014.   Last night they referred to the fact the state will be making changes to current assessments to prepare for this transition. 

Overall, the depth of what is expected in terms of learning is a shift.  The devil is in the implementation and it will take some community support and focus as these shifts are made.  It will have an impact on how teachers teach, so we should consider advocating and supporting teacher training and the time needed for teachers to fully engage with the new standards.  Though, there are teachers and schools that already use many of the practices of good teaching that these standards demand; for others, this will require developing new skills.  It seems there needs to be time for teachers to share and learn from those who are ahead on this.  DPS did address some of their teacher training plans.

We've briefly surveyed common core information from some of our neighboring school systems, like Chapel-Hill Carrboro, and we appear to be handling this in a similar way. We are hopeful that the questions asked at the sesion will result in some pretty clear FAQs and more detailed DPS-specific info online as well as some additional info sessions at the district and school level this fall, so more parents can understand the practical impact on their children.

If you attended the elementary session on Tuesday evening and would be willing to share a summary or your own observations about this, let us know.

1 comment:

Donna Rewalt said...

Another parent from the session mentioned that the district will still use the William and Mary curriculm as a resource for teachers to use with advanced students.