The new mandated Common Core Learning Standards that are being implemented in schools across the state are not only changing K-12 curricula, but dramatically altering the way teachers instruct and students learn.
Common Core encourages lessons to be taught as an investigation. For instance, no longer will a math teacher introduce multiplication to her students by showing them how to perform an equation. Instead, she must first present the problem to her students and ask them, “How, based on the knowledge you already possess, would you go about solving it?”
“[The students] are going to make mistakes … but it requires them to think,” Rose Linda Ricca, chairperson of math, science and technology for the Malverne School District, explained at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
Once the students have tried to figure out the problems on their own or through group work, then the teacher is allowed to show them the skills they need to correctly solve the equation. It’s all part of the overall plan to make students more prepared for college and careers.
“Every single subject gets changed because of Common Core,” Ricca said.
Another major shift brought on by Common Core is that reading must now be infused into every subject including math, science and physical education. The majority of ELA exam now contains questions linked to informational texts that students must be able to read, analyze and find the answers within. In the past, the exam asked students for their opinions, but now it asks, “What does the author say?” Ricca explained. Even the Math exam now requires students to read more and explain how they found their answers.
Common Core has also prioritized exactly what skills students are expected to master in each grade. For instance, before leaving Kindergarten students are expected be able to add and subtract numbers 1 through 5, and explain how to do so in words. Third graders need to master how to multiply and divide within 100 and add/subtract within 1,000.
The state has also raised the bar for student achievement. Graduating with a Regents diploma, an accomplishment that more than 96 percent of Malverne High School students achieved last year, is no longer good enough, Ricca explained. Instead of passing five Regents exams, students now have to pass eight – two Social Studies, one English, three Math and two Science – in order to get the advanced designation.
Last year, the state has also determined that to be “college and career ready” students have to achieve at least a 75 on the English, and 80 on the Math Regents, Ricca explained, adding, “That’s our new standard … that’s our aim.”
The state is also emphasizing the importance of Advanced Placement and college level courses.
“Data has shown that the best indicator to see if a child is ready is for them to take these level courses, because now in high school they are taking courses that are at the same rigor as a college course,” Ricca said. “They know what is expected of them and they rise.”
Currently, Malverne students can earn more than 30 credits through the school’s AP and college courses, and about 60 percent of Malverne students who take AP courses, achieved a score of 3 or higher on the exams, which is needed to earn college credit.
Ricca added, “Our goal is to get more and more students to take these courses.”
All of these mandates come at a cost though. Districts will need to spend money on professional development for teachers, and new textbooks, test-prep and testing materials. They may soon be required to also purchase enough computers, laptops or tablets for one entire grade to take be able to take the state assessment at the same time.