A curriculum for everyone

W.H. addresses new Common Core standards


The Common Core Standards, a national initiative to bring a common curriculum to all of the nation’s schools and to ensure that students are ready for higher education and the workplace,are coming to both Malverne and West Hempstead.

West Hempstead Superintendent John Hogan addressed the standards recently. “The Common Core Standards provide a shared vision of what students should know and be able to do,” he told a school board meeting on March 19.

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia had adopted the standards. Only Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia have not.

The goal of the program is to prepare students for college and career opportunities by moving away from more traditional teaching, which Hogan described as the “stand up and lecture method,” toward a more interactive model, which puts what Hogan called the “burden of learning” on the students.

“How often are you asking why and how as compared with how often are you asking what and where,” Hogan said, “because there is a difference in the quality of those answers.”

More-effective teaching requires the use of more than just textbooks or fiction reading, he said. By the sixth grade, for example, only 30 percent of the materials read by students in the Common Core curriculum will be fiction, poetry and drama. The other 70 percent of their readings will be made up of “literary non-fiction” — essays, speeches, opinion pieces, biographies, newspaper stories and the country’s founding documents.

“The more that students are thinking analytically and the more they need to stop and think about what an answer should be,” Hogan said, “the better they are in terms of developing their own learning and how their own brains work.”

In mathematics, the focus will be on both fluency — the ability to calculate quickly and accurately — and on a deep understanding, more than “how to get the answers,” Hogan said, “and instead support[ing] students’ ability to access concepts from a number of perspectives.”

Assessment is a large part of the Common Core Standards program. Student will take 10 tests a year to assess their strengths and weaknesses, how well they understand the material and their ability to synthesize information for use in alternate ways.

Beginning in May and June, students in grades 3 to 8 will be tested in both mathematics and English Language Arts to “measure what students know and can do relative to the grade-level Common Core Standards,” Hogan said.

Those tests must be taken using an electronic device such as a computer or tablet. According to Hogan, that presents the problem of how to ensure that every student has equal access to such a devices and that all are trained on the new testing paradigm.

“From K-12, teachers across all subjects will become teachers of literacy,” Hogan said. “The Common Core will bring changes to the New York state ELA and mathematics exams, while redesigning the state’s assessment program.”

Hogan stressed to the board and others who attended the meeting that the Common Core is a new program, with new exams, and that because of the unfamiliarity of the tests, the state expects students’ scores to drop 10 to 30 percent on the first set of exams.

All testing must be aligned to the Common Core Standards in the 2013-14 school year.