By Meghan McCaffrey Contributing Writer
---- — As with teachers and parents in the rest of New York, those in Cherry Valley are concerned about the common core shifts in the education of students in grades three through eight.
Because this issue raises so many questions, the administrators at Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School are hoping to assuage people’s anxiety by hosting an informational night on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. in the school auditorium. Parents and community members are welcome to attend to learn more about the shifts in Common Core education.
Teachers, administrators, students and parents need to understand what these shifts will mean for their schools but it’s complicated, said Lauren Crisman, the principal of pre-k through fifth grade at Cherry Valley-Springfield Central School.
According to the website www.engageny.org New York State adopted the Common Core State Standards on July 19, 2010 although academic year 2012-2013 was the first year schools put the changes into practice.
Because there were so many changes made to the educational requirements there are many complications, Crisman said.
One of the biggest complications when this rolled out was that in one-year’s time teachers, students and administrators had to embrace the new changes so that students had enough understanding in order to take their regents exams in the spring. Also, Crisman said that schools were not given the modules with the specific information that needed to be taught.
“We now have a road map with clear outcomes and expectations,” Crisman said. “It’s a big change from last year.”
Both principals of CV-S Central School said that they thought the changes were a good thing but that the transition is the hardest part.
“There’s a lot of concerns because this is a major change in education,” said Kevin Keane, the principal of grades six through 12. “I don’t think that anyone would argue that deepening the children’s understanding is bad for our kids.”
The modules that came out were based upon 2020 fluency, which means that in 2020 students are expected to learn various “units” within a certain number of days. But, because the information students now need to know is more in depth than what was formerly taught, modules take more time to complete, about 35 days depending on how well the kids pick it up.
“Teachers have two jobs, to plan for instruction and to execute their instruction,” Crisman said.
With these new modules teachers can focus on teaching their students effectively without having to spend as much time planning for their lessons. Crisman called the modules a “roadmap” that explains what the expectations are for teachers and students.
There were changes made in the curriculum of both English language arts and mathematics.
One of the biggest shifts in the English language arts component is that students will read more nonfiction than before. Fifty percent of the students reading will be nonfiction texts that correlate with things they’re learning in science and history. The other half of their reading material will be the traditional literature texts that have been the primary focus in English classrooms until now.
“When you’re a reader there’s a different strategy for attacking nonfiction. Nonfiction is not generally easy reading,” Crisman said.
“We are teaching kids how to do both types of reading,” she continued.
Crisman said she is enthusiastic about children learning the skills and vocabulary they need to read nonfictional texts.
There were changes made to mathematics curriculum as well. One of the biggest changes at CV-S is that they will no longer offer the accelerated eighth grade algebra. But Keane said that the new curriculum is more challenging for their students so the students aren’t missing out.
“The reason we accelerate is to challenge students to be outside of their comfort zones,” Keane said.
Students who would have been in the eighth grade accelerated algebra class will have more time to learn the fundamentals. This will still put them on track to be in Advanced Placement Calculus in their senior year, Keane explained.
Crisman expressed her concerns about explaining this change to parents.
“I do worry about being able to clearly explain it,” Crisman said. “It’s not easy to understand.”
Parents with questions are also welcome to go to the website engageny.org for more information about what New York State expects of students and teachers.