The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) have been the major focus for our faculty this school year.
By Dr. Frank Alvarez
The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) have been the major focus for our faculty this school year. Under the guidance of our administrators and staff developers, all of our K-12 teachers will be participating in professional development initiatives that concentrate on the changing curriculum.
The CCLS was adopted by the New York State Board of Regents in 2011. As defined by EngageNY.org, an outlet maintained by the New York State Department of Education, the CCLS are “internationally-benchmarked and evidence-based standards that serve as a consistent set of expectations for what students should learn and be able to do.” A driving factor is college and career readiness for all students.
Common Core curriculum is grade-specific, with precise, year-end expectations. The shifts are written in a way that shows how they build across grade levels. Under the 12 CCLS shifts, instruction is less compartmentalized; subject areas are connected, with the acknowledgment that literacy actually falls across all parts of the curriculum. There are six shifts in English Language Arts/Literacy, and six shifts in Mathematics. These shifts, as defined by EngageNY in the report, “Common Core State Standards: Shifts for Students and Parents,” are as follows:
-Read as much non-fiction as fiction
-Learn about the world by reading
-Read more challenging material closely
-Discuss reading using evidence
-Write non-fiction using evidence
-Increase academic vocabulary
-Focus: Learn more about fewer, key topics
-Build skills within and across grades
-Develop speed and accuracy
-Really know it, really do it
-Use it in the real world
-Think fast and solve problems
This year, our staff will be engaged in writing the new curriculum in accordance with the shifts. Our teachers are spending time familiarizing themselves with the new goals and changes, while updating District documents to reflect the shifts. The District has been utilizing outside resources and vendors to assist in meeting these new challenges. Additionally, a variety of workshops and conferences covering Common Core topics are being presented to teachers throughout the year.
Under the CCLS instructional shifts, literacy will be taught with increasing complexity rather than at random, so core readings will be designed to increase in difficulty levels between September and May. “Close reading” is also being emphasized, with a greater amount of time spent on fewer reading assignments that are more challenging. Similarly, writing will be from sources and students will use more document-based writing. As the curriculum is revised, our staff will be identifying more rigorous non-fiction texts and elevating instructional practices related to higher-order thinking skills.
In math, fewer topics will be covered in greater depth. Students will be expected to know number facts and develop mathematical understanding that can be applied in everyday life. Facets of the math curriculum will change for certain grade levels; for example, division is expected to be learned in third grade.
Despite the degree of detail that the shifts encompass, they do not limit teachers. Districts and educators still determine the resources they will use and the ways they will instruct to meet the year-end expectations outlined in the CCLS. The goal is not to have all districts use the same materials, but to achieve the same learning levels. We decide how to get there.
The existing exams that are administered annually will be revised to assess the learning set forth in the CCLS. The State has revised K-8 ELA and math assessments to align with the CCLS, and next year, the same will be done for high school Regents exams.
As most parents are already aware, Rye City School District has developed new K-5 report cards based on Common Core outcomes. These report cards will indicate the progress students are making with regard to the CCLS, and how well the expectations are being met. The elementary school principals have organized meetings for parents during which the new report cards are being explained and discussed.
On January 15, the District will host a Common Core workshop for parents, presented by Southern Westchester BOCES. It will be held at 7 p.m. at Osborn School. We encourage parents to attend, and look forward to providing more information as we continue our implementation of the CCLS.