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At its meeting Thursday, the Calvert County Board of Education got a closer look into the Common Core State Standards and how they will affect math programs in the schools.
“More critical thinking is happening in the classrooms,” said Calvert County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Robin Welsh, who said more “real life” examples will be used in math classes.
According to the Calvert County Public Schools website The Common Core State Standards are education standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades kindergarten through 12. They are designed to be more rigorous to better prepare students for college or the workplace and have been adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C. The Maryland State Board of Education adopted the standards in June 2010.
Supervisor of Elementary Education Jackie Herath explained at Thursday’s Calvert County Board of Education meeting that the principles behind the common core standards in math include reasoning and explaining; modeling and using tools; seeing structure and generalizing; and over arching habits of mind.
“This is really about what students understand and are able to do,” Herath said, explaining that the classes will be more about building on content rather than revisiting it year after year.
Supervisor of Secondary Mathematics Jackie Jacobs said as math curriculum is currently, “If they didn’t get it in sixth grade, we’ll re-teach it again in seventh grade.”
Jacobs said the difference with the common core is that less material will be covered during a school year, thereby allowing a teacher to really spend time on a piece of content. For example, she said students will learn about fractions in third grade, then fraction addition and subtraction in fourth grade and then fraction multiplication and division in fifth grade.
“Common core is more based on mastery,” Jacobs said, continuing that it will provide “a richer understanding of mathematics,” rather than the current practice, which she said is more about teaching procedure.
“Now we want to understand why we’re teaching the procedure. … It’s not as much to cover, but we’ll cover it so much deeper,” Jacobs said.
The board of education members reacted positively to this development and member Tracy McGuire commented that she has heard from teachers that, currently, “you’re just racing from one assessment to the next and hoping [your students] get it.”
Board member Dawn Balinski said she hopes the new curriculum will take the pressure off teachers feeling like their students need to be “memorizing and spitting out” concepts they may not actually understand.
“The planning, I think, will be highly significant,” Welsh said in terms of training teachers for the new method of teaching.
Jacobs said while less content will be covered in a school year, the rigor of it will see an increase. She said some of what’s currently covered in sixth grade math — like ratios and proportions — will be taught in fifth grade, and this pattern will continue into middle school.
“There’s going to be gaps that we’ll have to be filling along the way,” she said.
For the current school year, the schools are still using the Maryland State curriculum in math classes. A hybrid curriculum between the state and common core curriculum will be used for 2013-2014. Welsh said she would not be surprised if there was a statewide drop in Maryland School Assessment scores as a result of the transition, especially in light of the fact that teacher evaluations are also changing to be 50 percent based on student achievement.
“You wish there was a switch you could flip and have this done,” said Board of Education President Eugene Karol.
While the majority of standard math classes will transition completely to the common core for the 2014-2015 school year, Jacobs said honors classes will not transition until probably the following year. She said students will start being accelerated into honors courses in seventh grade, during which they will cover a year and a half’s worth of material in order to start learning algebra in eighth grade.
“This is going to be for students who are really ready for it,” said Jacobs, who suggested that the term “accelerated” courses replace “honors” courses, to give parents a better understanding of the kind of content compacting that will happen during the school year.
For the common core curriculum, high school honors courses would traditionally include geometry in ninth grade, algebra II in 10th grade, pre-calculus in 11th grade and calculus in 12th grade. Jacobs said it would be possible for students to take calculus II if courses were combined along the way.