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Schools join in state overhaul of curriculum

AMANDA SEBASTIANO
Staff Writer

“Major changes are taking place in all areas of curriculum and instruction next year, at all grade levels,” Lincoln County Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Elaine Boysworth told the Times-News last week.
Students in grades K-12 will be noticing more in depth, detailed work in their classrooms this fall, focusing more on the pathway to the answer rather than just answering correctly, she said.
The Common Core State Standards and Essential Standards will be used to get children in Lincoln County and throughout North Carolina and United States, “college ready” by graduation. Implementation will also, school officials hope, answer the question, “When will I ever use this?”
In the state, students will be focusing on English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics through the new curriculum. Teachers not involved with those subjects are tweaking what they are teaching through the Essential Standards curriculum.
Students can expect to see more analytical thinking exercises and project-based assignments this school year, which will start moving local schools in the direction of explaining answers on assessments, rather than just selecting A,B or C.
The standards were adopted in 2010 by North Carolina and 44 other states, most of which are beginning to use the changes in August, Boysworth cited.
North Carolina and Kentucky are among the first states to implement the standards.
The new tools are a result of many states coming together to decide on an idea of what students should be able to accomplish and skills they should have in certain subjects, State Superintendent of Public Schools June Atkinson told the Times-News on Friday.
After guidelines were agreed upon by the participating states, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) presented the guidelines for what students in the adopting states were expected to know, giving parents and their children an idea of the tools they will need to succeed in career paths later in life.
Teachers in the state are currently being trained on the more rigorous agendas they will have to fulfill each school year to prepare their students and make sure they understand what they are learning. County teachers completed 26 hours of training last year to prep them for what’s ahead, Boysworth said.
During the school year, workshops will be offered on the new curriculum and each school district will have a team to help its teachers with the standards. Modules are in place for teachers to access the new curriculum to further study it on their own time, not just in sessions and in the classroom.
Getting the students college-ready isn’t just something parents, students and teachers can pride themselves in – it should put business professionals and future employers’ in a better mood as well, Atkinson said, showing that their future employees are being taught relevant information that will put them ahead in their career fields, or at least on the same ground as their competitors.
The standards will ensure that every student in the participating states will be learning the same things, making it easier for transfers to pick back up where they left off at their previous school, Atkinson said.
Instructors in county schools will be heard asking their students why and how they chose an answer, and how they will apply what they have just learned, not just commending them on getting the correct answer. Deeper decision-making and problem-solving are among the tools teachers hope to instill in their students through the new standards.
“The good news is that our students know how to add, subtract, multiply and divide,” Atkinson said. “The bad news is they don’t know when to do those things. Parents should know that through this next step in education, their children will be asked to do more, but it will be meaningful.”
More time will also be spent on topics that are part of the standards, which officials hope will keep graduation rates high. Last school year displayed the highest number of graduates N.C. has seen, Atkinson boasted.
A few things students will be expected to do in the classroom starting in the fall:
Read more informative text, such as nonfiction stories, that they will later be expected to analyze.
Solve math problems in multiple ways, using creative types of thinking rather than just addition, subtraction and other basic techniques.
Study real-world situations in mathematical problems, where they will be responsible for working with classmates to solve problems and will be expected to explain how they got to their answer.
Use research and technology as tools to complete assignments.
“When students can take content and apply it, it helps to broaden their horizons so they can create and develop,” Atkinson said. “It means that North Carolina will have the potential to measure how our students are doing and will be able to measure against students in other states; it will help us
identify where we need to place greater emphasis.”
For more information on the standards, visit www.corestandards.org.

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