IRSD students being held to new standards this year
Students in the Indian River School District will be held to more rigorous standards in the coming year and beyond, with the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
LouAnn Hudson, director of curriculum and instruction for the Indian River School District, said the move is part of “what’s happening nationwide, to have all schools on the same page, with a national curriculum.”
She said that, going forward, there will even be a national test — something she referred to as a “next-generation test.”
Hudson said IRSD teachers have been actively participating in re-writing “learning maps” to work in the new curriculum.
“All the teachers are involved in the re-writing the documents,” said Hudson. “It’s not administrators sitting in an office somewhere, writing it for them. Teachers have been very hands-on and will continue to be throughout this entire year.”
She said the deadline to have the initiative implemented district-wide is the start of the 2014 school year, two years from now.
So, what does that mean for students and parents?
“It’s the same material, and the same texts — at least for now — but it will be more rigorous coursework,” she said. “The information isn’t changing. It’s just what they do with the information.”
She said there will be more of a focus on reading and writing across all content areas, such as science, fine arts and social studies, as well as different standards for math literacy.
Hudson said they are not only looking to teach the students strategies but that the application is very important, as well.
“We want them to have a deep understanding of the mathematical process, not just facts. When they really use those functions and fluidly understand the process, as it gets more difficult, they will be able to problem-solve and have the background they need for higher-level content. The Common Core State Standards Initiative really is about [teaching students] to be problem-solvers and critical thinkers,” said Hudson.
IRSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting said the new Common Core Initiatives will “demand thinking, emphasize complex texts and higher-level comprehension.”
“This is one of our cornerstone projects in our four-year plan to spend $3.2 million in federal Race to the Top funding,” she wrote in her message to parents in the 2012-2013 school-year calendar.
Many younger students in the district will not see a huge change, as teachers started training for, and even implementing, some of the standards as early as January 2012. The state has two years from the adoption to fully implement the new standards.
But students as young as kindergarteners will see changes, explained Audrey K. Carey, supervisor of elementary education for IRSD. For example, instead of reading fluency or letter recognition, students will be expected to answer questions about the text they read and analyze the author’s purpose and find facts.
Parents, she said, can help with this by reading stories and then asking the child what the story was about and asking them to give reasons for their answer.
She said that, for parents of a child who is not reading by themselves yet, another great way to understand is through illustration, so it is acceptable at that age for a student to rely on illustrations of a story, rather than solely on the text.
She reiterated that the best thing for parents to do when a child is young is “reading, reading, reading.”
“It helps. It not only builds their background but it helps them to hear a fluent reader. They need good models at that age.”
She added that this is actually the best time to be a kindergartner, because they will have started their school career off with the new standards and it will be less of a learning curve for them. Hudson added that getting students who haven’t been held to these national standards in the past up to par is part of their plan for the new year and beyond.
“We not only will be making the transition but will be filling in the gaps. We have worked very hard on how to address those in coursework, and teachers have been the experts. Indian River School District’s plan involves the teachers, and in rolling this out, the teachers have been key and will continue to lead this process.”
Delaware is one of 45 states and three territories to adopt the standards, which “were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce,” according to the Web site at corestandards.org.
According to the Web site, the standards are aligned with college and work expectations; are clear, understandable and consistent; include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills; build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards; are informed by other top-performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in the global economy and society; and are evidence-based.