Richmond County public school teachers are already gearing up for the new school year, and the new curriculum that will come along with it.
Students will be exposed to the new standards beginning Aug. 27, as teachers unroll the Common Core, a national set of standards for math and English/language arts, along with the Essential Standards, the revised state standards for all other academic areas, including science and social studies.
The new standards are designed to prepare North Carolina’s students to be competitive for higher education and careers. The standards were developed with input from teachers, school administrators, parents, college entrance exam developers, policy makers and business leaders.
Almost all of the states have adopted these new Common Core standards. Before the Common Core, every state had its own set of academic standards. Students at the same grade level in each state were expected to perform at different levels.
Richmond County kindergarten, first and second grade teachers began teaching under the new curriculum this past school year.
“Even though (my son) Dexter went to a private school, he was still taught by the new standards,” said Christy Mabe, of Ellerbe. “I love them. Dexter had to think, not just choose the best answer from a set of choices. He was learning how to write basic algebraic equations, each student in his class published their own books and he was reading chapter books by Christmas. In my opinion it’s a way of teaching and learning that makes sense.”
Richmond County teachers recently met with curriculum coaches to review documents that provide a detailed overview of what students should be expected to do under each of the new standards. For East Rockingham Elementary teacher Windy Taylor, the new curriculum and documents will be a tremendous help as she prepares to welcome a new group of students.
“The Common Core will prepare students to think deeper, and persevere when given a challenge,” Taylor said. “Now that we have these documents that teachers have worked together on, we have a clear guide.”
The new standards are designed to help students think more critically, and give teachers benchmarks to measure whether their students are meeting goals.
The standards also lay out a vision of what it means to be literate in the 21st century. With the county struggling with high illiteracy rates, this new plan could be a step toward progress in that area.
The implementation of the new standards represents a huge shift in the way teachers will instruct students. This means that teachers will serve as “facilitators,” and encourage students to use technology and other resources to discover facts for themselves.
With these standards, teachers and parents will know what they need to do to help students meet specific learning targets. Students, parents and the community should also be able to see the direct link between what is taught and what students are being expected to do.
Jennifer Broch, a teacher at Mineral Springs Elementary, is excited that teachers will have the opportunity to reach every child in a more deep and meaningful way.
“This brings definition to what needs to be taught and assessed,” Broch said. “The content information is so specific that it provides teachers with the opportunity to tailor instruction to more closely meet the needs of each individual student.”
This means that rather than spending time interpreting the standards, teachers will already have a clear understanding of what goals need to be met, and what students are expected to do. They should be able to spend more time making sure each student has mastered the skills required.
Debbie Spears, a curriculum coach in the area of social studies, said the documents that teachers have helped create will be a valuable tool for them to use as they plan for classroom instruction. Spears also discussed the importance of the “year-at-a-glance” documents, which provide a detailed overview of the units of study for a particular subject area.
“Teachers have collaborated to develop these documents to define what it will look like to teach each specific objective,” Spears said. “The year-at-a-glance document for social studies will provide continuity across the school system. Teachers will be on the same page, teaching focused standards. So if a student moves from one school to another school, he or she will be able to have a more seamless transition.”
Director of Professional Development Jami Graham has played a major role in overseeing the summer sessions to ensure that teachers are comfortable with the new curriculum as they prepare to start in the fall. Graham said she is proud of how teachers have come together to prepare for the transition.
“As a district, we have been involved in this ongoing process of implementing new instructional standards for two years,” Graham said. “We are so proud of our district. Our teachers have not only been provided resources they will need to teach new standards, they have been a part of the development of these resources.”
What all of this amounts to is that teaching styles will be altered, and made to be more uniform across the state and nation. While teachers might have previously stood and lectured in the past, now teachers will spend more time encouraging group project activities that will help students learn on their own. The goal of the new curriculum is to keep the students actively engaged.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.