More than 200 turn out to learn more about impact of Common Core
To help parents better understand changes to the curriculum under the state’s new Common Core Learning Standards, administrators and teachers gathered at the BCMS auditorium on Tuesday, October 1 at an evening forum for parents of students in kindergarten through grade 12.
The focus of the meeting was to describe the Common Core and its impact on classroom instruction and state testing. More than 200 people attended the evening event.
There was also discussion about teacher and principal evaluations known as APPR, or the Annual Professional Performance Review. Discussion included explanations about student growth scores and teacher evaluation scores.
The evening featured updates from Assistant Superintendent Jody Monroe and academic department supervisors. Elementary and middle school principals and teachers offered specific examples of what the Common Core looks like in their classrooms and shared ideas for what parents can do at home to assist with the increased rigor.
The parent forum was taped to provide those who could not attend the meeting a chance to hear some of the dialogue on Common Core, state testing and APPR.
Video of Common Core/APPR Meeting
Audience Q & A – October 1, 2013
The following questions were submitted by audience members at the October 1 meeting and the reponses have been provided by district administrators. They were questions that could not be covered during evening session due to time constraints.
Common Core Standards influence on Curriculum/Instruction
- Is the Common Core developmentally appropriate?
As a district, we believe overall the Common Core Standards are positive and are much more cohesive than our prior Standards. However, the Standards are more rigorous and require students to reach higher levels. There are concerns about the ability of special education students to meet these expectations. In addition, students develop skills at varied rates, so there are concerns about how to expect all students to meet these Standards at a designated point in time. Close attention to how students are responding to the change in standards will help us pinpoint what we can do to aid them through any variations in learning.
- How does the district choose curriculum materials?
We have cabinets that meet regularly to update and revise curriculum. The cabinet is made up of teachers, principals and subject area supervisors. As the work is completed, it is shared with the entire faculty for feedback before new curriculum is adopted or materials are purchased.
- With the increased depth in learning, what is the consequence of minimizing the range of material kids are exposed to. How do you decide what not to learn anymore?
The increase in depth is at the individual grade level. The breadth of material being covered K-8 has actually increased slightly. For instance, the Common Core Learning Standards K-8 will set a much stronger foundation for algebra than the New York State Learning Standards that we implemented in 2005.
- You say that “rules” in math will be replaced with focusing on the “why” in math problems. However, sometimes “rules” in math are valuable. Will they still learn the rules too?
Students will still learn algorithms, including the traditional standard algorithm. In fact students will be exposed to alternate algorithms that are different from the “standard” algorithms. For instance when learning multiplication of multi-digit numbers, methods such as lattice multiplication and partial products will be shown in addition to the standard multiplication algorithm. However, the algorithms will not be introduced before students have a chance to discover and understand the true meanings behind the concepts.
- After reviewing engageny.org I have concerns with the low quality of the modules being introduced for new curriculum tops. What quality control measures will Bethlehem put in place to review modules carefully before using them for teaching?
Bethlehem is not using the modules.
- Has the district/state thought all about the emotional or psychological effect of a stricter, more rigorous curriculum? How will this affect the dynamics of childhood? Will you increase school counselors to deal with these issues?
We have talked about these concerns as a District and are very sensitive to the emotional effects testing and increased rigor have on our students. We still believe that a well rounded education is critical at BC. Our teachers do a very nice job of helping students with concerns that may arise and our guidance counselors and social workers have also assisted with these issues as well. This was a primary reason why the APPR committee made some significant changes to reduce testing this year.
- How does reducing report cards to twice a year help elementary parents evaluate how their children are doing?
The report cards are more comprehensive and aligned to the Common Core. Because the Common Core stresses depth and less content, we will be providing parents with quality feedback that aligns when the skills are taught. In addition, parents now receive the AIMS Web report 3 times a year which provides information as to how their child is progressing in reading and math.
- Why is there a push to make everyone conform?
We still believe that a well rounded education is critical at BC. However, the Common Core State Standards, which are being adopted across the country, are intended to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The Standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers in a global economy.
- What can be done for students who can’t keep up?
All of our schools differentiate, so that we are able to meet the needs of all students. For students who are behind, we set target goals using RTI interventions to try and close the gap they may have in certain areas.
- When will the SESS Department address Common Core and IEPs?
The SESS Department has begun to address the Common Core. SESS staff have participated in all professional development related to the Common Core, as the majority of our programs occur in a general education setting (resources room, co-teach, direct consultant teacher). As all of our staff become more familiar with the Common Core, we will shift our goal writing towards the shifts in Common Core. All testing will be included in the student’s IEP, including RTI (pre-CSE).
- A key component of Common Core is the focus on formative assessment. I wonder what efforts are being made in this district to enhance formative assessment and feedback (ongoing)?
We have been training teachers and working on how to effectively use formative assessments in the classrooms for several years now and will continue this work with the Common Core.
State testing and the Common Core Standards
- Is the Common Core replacing the Regents exams? If yes, how will that exam schedule work at the high school level when they are typically not in class during exam weeks?
The Common Core exams will replace the Integrated Algebra and Comprehensive English. This year, the Common Core Algebra exam will be administered while school is in session. The rest of the exams will be administered during the testing week.
- With regard to the scoring on the 6th grade exams from last year, was the bar raised and/or was the level of the content made more different?
The level of the content in all of the grades was substantially more difficult, both in math and ELA.
- If a parent wants to opt their child out of the tests, are there any repercussions for teacher or student?
Opting out of the tests is really not an option, unless a parent keeps the child out of school for the entire testing and make-up periods. The District is obligated to administer the test. If too many students do not take the assessments, the district can be identified as not making AYP, or Annual Yearly Progress, which could require us to write local assistance plans, be identified as a school in need of improvement or face other penalties from NYSED.
- Is the alternate assessment changing? Are teachers at private Special Ed schools assessed?
Yes, the NYSAA is changing. This year, one of the main changes to NYSAA is that it will be administered to students twice throughout the year; as a pre-test and a post-test. This will show individual student growth. As for testing in private special education schools: private schools do not have the same requirement as the public schools do. Many of the private schools do a form of teacher evaluation, that is evidence based, but the frequency and documentation is not as rigorous and accountable as the public schools.
- How will the PARCC assessments be implemented and what changes do you think might occur because of this system?
NYS has not officially adopted the PARCC assessments. However, if they do we would need to move to online assessments, which we are planning for through our technology plan. In regards to content, the PARCC assessments are still aligned to the Common Core, so our revisions to the curriculum that we have already made will be aligned to these new assessments.
- When will NYS test scores be released to parents?
All schools have the scaled scores and levels, which can be shared with parents. The parent reports were mailed on September 30, 2013.
- Does the Common Core testing determine if a student moves onto the next level?
If you have specific questions regarding the Common Core, please contact your child’s teacher or principal, or visit the Common Core homepage.
Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR)
- How are innovative teaching techniques which may not reflect a higher APPR score being assessed and rewarded? And replicated?
Quality teaching is evaluated through the observation process and is reflected in the overall points assigned for each teachers’ rubric.
- Is it possible to measure teacher stress level in light of APPR and, in turn, the student stress levels as a result?
As a school district, we make every effort to provide support and professional development for teachers, giving them the tools necessary to ease the transition to the Common Core and to prepare for new APPR evaluations. Our teachers, in turn, do a very nice job of helping students with concerns that may arise and our guidance counselors and social workers have also assisted with these issues as well. On a district level, we made the decision to forego pre-testing at the beginning of the year to relieve some of the pressures of testing.