For several years, schools in 46 states nationwide have been making the slow transition to the new Common Core State Standards that are slated for full implementation for the 2013-2014 school year. This effort marks a large-scale realignment of educational standards and benchmarks and aims to improve student achievement through uniform standards.
While the transition has been gradual, educators have taken great care to ready themselves and their students for the shift in curriculum. In mathematics, as with language arts, common core will focus more on process, with less emphasis on rote memorization. Teachers will cover fewer standards, but the concepts taught will be covered more thoroughly.
A recent teacher workshop organized by Jennifer Younger, an instructional supervisor of math for grades K-8, demonstrated new tools for teaching the common core curriculum. Programs on math journals and math stations were presented by Amanda Atchley, a second-grade teacher at Seymour Primary.
The math journal session emphasized the importance of journals in helping students organize, clarify, and reflect on their thinking. A continuation of an earlier workshop held in January. teachers who attended the session began creating a math journal to incorporate into their classrooms.
The second session focused on utilizing math stations to encourage students to take an active role in their learning. The session also gave teachers the opportunity to make activities and learn new ideas to apply in their own classrooms.
Younger said the session was popular with teachers because they are able to identify with Atchley. “She’s a wonderful presenter, and her evaluations were great,” she said. “The teachers can relate to her because she’s a real classroom teacher.”
Jeremy Kerr, a kindergarten teacher at Catlettsburg Elementary, said he attended the program to find ways to improve his teaching while implementing the new common core skills in mathematics.
“We’re learning new games and hands-on activities, as well as how to make stations more focused on math,” Kerr said. “If they’re (students) having fun, they’re learning,”
Sherry Barker, who teaches first grade at Catlettsburg, agreed.
“Everything is becoming more complicated and in depth. The point is to engage students and keep them practicing with hands-on activities like manipulatives. She (Atchley) is showing us some of the things she does,” she said.
“Kids won’t be judged just on getting the right answer anymore,” Kerr added. “It’s not just about what they write down. They have to show how they get to the answer.”
Both Kerr and Barker said the school system has been supportive in helping them make the switch to the new common core. “We are blessed to have a county that takes the time to educate us no matter what else is going on,” Kerr said.
“Sevier County is on the stick more than most,” agreed Barker.
Despite the challenge of adapting to the new standards, Younger said most teachers are optimistic about the change. “It’s not easy,” she said. “But the teachers have been engaged, interactive, and asking questions. The first session went 15 minutes over, and not one person had their stuff packed up.”
Younger will travel to Nashville next week, along with five other teachers, for additional math training from the state. Those who attend this summer’s state workshops will then hold after school training for other teachers in the fall.
“Hopefully we will learn something new and productive,” Younger said. “We are continuously working and learning with the common core so we can come back and share with teachers.”
“We’re in the kid business,” Kerr said. “That’s the bottom line. We want these kids to get the best education they can get.”