Bexley ready to implement 'Common Core' standards
One behind-the-scenes activity in Bexley Schools is thoughtful and careful deliberation about what kind of curriculum will give our students the best learning opportunities. This goes on year round, even during the summer -- through meetings, workshops, book study, and conversation among faculty members and administrators.
Dictating how we design our curriculum, first and foremost, are Ohio's academic content standards.
In 2010, Ohio's legislators decided that new standards for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics should be guided by the "Common Core." Based on the most effective education models from around the world and the norm for 47 U.S. states, the Common Core provides "teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn" in grades K-12, according to the Common Core Standards Initiative. Standards for social studies and science were developed in Ohio, specifically for Ohio schools.
This fall in Bexley, as in every public school in Ohio, students in grades K-2 will be learning from four new sets of academic standards. All grades will fully implement the new standards starting in 2013-2014 so that students can be ready for newly aligned state assessments that begin in 2014-2015.
So how did we in Bexley figure out what to teach students K-2 this year so that they learn what they need to know?
To take mathematics as an example, we started conversations about alignment as soon as we learned that new Common Core math standards would be required. Last school year, teachers met regularly by grade level and in a representative committee to review district math curriculum.
We considered student assessment scores, historical patterns, gaps, anything that would help set instruction: What do we expect at each grade level? What information should students retain?
Our K-12 math teams deconstructed the new, more rigorous math standards and what they mean. Since the new standards emphasize depth over breadth, as well as specific grade-level expectations, rather than grade-band expectations, we did a "crosswalk" between the old and new standards, figuring out where there is overlap and how to increase depth of learning.
One consequence of the math standards switch is Bexley High School's rearrangement of its sequence of math courses, giving students extra time to master algebra skills before they move on to more demanding geometry content.
Our K-6 faculty created math curriculum maps, indicating what students need to learn, the skills required to develop understanding, and essential facts and concepts.
At that point, we turned our attention to finding the best resources to teach the new standards. Our elementary staff reviewed textbook options, which led to our piloting a new textbook series this year in grades K-2, while grades 3-6 use the current text with activities selected to align to the new standards. If the new text proves to be a better resource, the district will adopt it next year for K-6.
Plan on attending your school's Curriculum Night in September to find out more about the district's curricula; visit BexleySchools.org to read more about each subject area.
Dr. Laura Lipsett is the director of curriculum for the Bexley City Schools.