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Schools prepare for curriculum change

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She stressed that teachers will have to alter their instructional practices with the new curriculum, which focuses less on simply how to obtain the answer in mathematics, but more on the understanding of concepts and applying them to many problems.


Barker said there isnt one correct way to teach the new standards and said there are three main principles in Common Core. She said students will receive a strong foundation to encourage deep thinking, will be able to connect those foundational concepts across grade levels and how to apply the conceptual skills to various levels of mathematics.


It has a lot more focus on critical thinking and problem solving, Barker said.


This year, the Common Core standards were implemented in K-2 students for math and English/Language Arts.


Barker said the change would benefit teachers in that they will be able to slow down their instruction and not worry about covering a large list of minor topics. She said the concentration on major core concepts would be a step in the right direction.


Common Core is not a checklist, Barker said. Teachers no longer will feel like they have to rush to get through topics, but they can slow down and dive deeper.


This summer, LSSD teachers will be training in groups, 10 teachers and administrators from each school, to prepare for the changes this fall. Barker said there is a three-week training course in July to introduce the new Common Core standards to teachers.


The groups from each school will then help train other teachers in the new standards.


Starting with the 2013-2014 school year, students in grades 3-8 will start learning Common Core for English/Language Arts, which Barker said is concentrated on reading comprehension, citing evidence from readings to answer complex questions and on improved writing skills.


The LSSD is actually a pilot program for the new English standards this year, we have a small group that will be looking at the standards, Barker said.


In 2014-2015 students will also no longer be taking the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test, which all students grades 3-8 take at the end of each year. Barker said that test is to be replaced with Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers or PARCC. The test is expected to be less multiple choice and contain more critical thinking questions and written problems.


The PARCC is a Common Core online testing tool with more problem solving and complex questions, but we arent sure because its still in development, Barker noted.


At the same time, Wilson County Schools officials are preparing their high schools with personnel shifts, bringing in more math teachers to meet a change in secondary school curriculum.


County Schools Human Resources Supervisor Mary Ann Sparks said they have created four new math teaching positions to meet the new requirement that students take four math classes in high school before graduating.


This years high school freshman class will be the first group required to take a math class every year.


They are requiring more math classes and more kids are taking a single class over two blocks, so they have less blocks to take electives, Sparks said.


She said more students in local high schools are taking classes such as Algebra 1a and Algebra 1b which covers Algebra 1 material over a full year, instead of in a single semester.


These personnel changes, Sparks said, are based each year on student registration in the spring. The county has cut 10 positions, including a Marketing, Spanish, Carpentry and middle school Drama position due to small student population in those classes.


That determines what classes well have next year, she said of registration. If a class does not have enough students sign up, the position can be removed.


The county also cut several positions through attrition with Sparks noting that 38 teachers retired this year.


Some of the people that retired, their position was cut, Sparks noted.


The new math teachers at the high school level will go a long way when high schools switch to the Common Core in 2013-2014.


This is a big transition taking place over the next two years, Barker said.


For more information on Common Core and the transition from the current curriculum to the new standards, visit www.tncore.org or www.tn.gov/education.


Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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