Bexley News

Schools Notebook

Teachers see Common Core as valuable opportunity

Tuesday April 30, 2013 2:21 PM

Editor's note: A portion of this column was omitted from the April 25 edition of ThisWeek Bexley News. It appears here in its entirety.

One recent Sunday afternoon, my family was together for a rare break in our spring sports and activities-fueled craziness and we watched the end of the Masters Golf Tournament.

During a commercial break my daughter said, "Listen, Mom, they are talking about the Common Core!" Sure enough, there was a commercial from Exxon Mobile touting the virtues of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Math. I have to admit to feeling somewhat vindicated that something I talk about a lot was picked up as an advertising point on prime time sports!

Even though as members of the Bexley Board of Education and school district staff, we have recently been looking at the Common Core almost ad nauseum, I have often wondered if the general Bexley community understands what it means and how it will impact our children.

Our students have probably heard about it enough that they understand that it will make school "harder," but the motivation behind the switch might be lost on them as well.

Common Core began as a concept designed to address Americans' desire to continue to educate our children at the highest levels and to be globally competitive. Unfortunately, about 40 percent of Ohio high school graduates who go to public college in Ohio need to take remedial coursework in English or math -- a trend that prevails across the country. The necessary rigor is simply not there in many schools.

Another reality of our national education system is that it is very fragmented. Anyone who has family or friends in another part of the country knows that what children learn in one city, county or state is not necessarily what that child would learn if he or she lived in another part our country.

In response, educators across the country drafted standards that all schools could use to create commonality in curriculum requirements.

These education standards are rigorous and designed to produce deep understanding of content.

Now known as the "Common Core" -- in other words, a common understanding of what we except students to learn in a subject -- these standards were adopted in more than 45 states including Ohio.

Because the Common Core only addresses English and math, Ohio has also created challenging social studies and science academic content standards that describe what students are to learn in those subjects.

Collectively, these new standards mark a fundamental shift in how we educate our children. Depth is now emphasized over breadth and students are expected to master difficult tasks earlier in their academic careers.

These new standards also require an amazing amount of work on the part of our teachers and administration.

Almost everything is new, or at least is looked at through a different lens, and every teacher is making changes in his or her lesson plans and assessments. To further complicate matters, the state does not always provide guidelines on every topic so there is justifiable concern on the part of our staff as to how to best address the standards.

Thankfully, we have an incredibly gifted group of educators in our district.

Despite the anxiety that accompanies massive change, they look at these changes as an exciting opportunity to improve their ability to impart students with lasting learning.

We are fortunate that most of the dire statistics of education failures do not come from Bexley. Our staff members are nevertheless continuing to act as leaders in incorporating the new academic content standards into our teaching community.

I hope you will join me in supporting them as we journey on this challenging new path.

Marlee Snowdon is vice president of the Bexley Board of Education.

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