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Common Core Learning Standards in the PACS District

Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) were adopted by New York State in 2011, and are being implemented in hundreds of school districts across the state this year.

The CCLS seeks to establish a set of academic standards that are consistent from school to school, district to district and state to state. The Pulaski Academy and Central School District (PACS) is “adopting and adjusting” the NYS modules and domains at the elementary level and “adapting” them to the curriculum at the middle and high school levels.

Olivia Fernandez draws a line graph to illustrate a math problem in her second grade class as her teacher, Suzie Etz, looks on. Common Core teaches students more indepth information about fewer topics and utilizes visual tools to reinforce learning.  RDW (read, draw, write) is one Common Core method utilized in Mrs. Etz’s and Mrs. Lynn Hoffman’s co-teaching classroom.
Olivia Fernandez draws a line graph to illustrate a math problem in her second grade class as her teacher, Suzie Etz, looks on. Common Core teaches students more indepth information about fewer topics and utilizes visual tools to reinforce learning. RDW (read, draw, write) is one Common Core method utilized in Mrs. Etz’s and Mrs. Lynn Hoffman’s co-teaching classroom.

The CCLS modules are being used across the district at all grade levels as they become available. CCLS sets clear goals, and consistent, strong, clear benchmarks that define student readiness at each grade level.

Changes parents will notice in the English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum include increased focus on non-fiction with careful, close reading, discussing and writing about what they read using evidence to prove their argument, and increased academic vocabulary.

Math shifts include learning fewer concepts, but in greater detail. Rather than know a little about a lot of things, students will instead focus more intently on fewer concepts and then build upon that knowledge. They will also focus on speed and accuracy and use real world examples to apply that knowledge to real life. Each step in the math curriculum will build on past concepts, and these building blocks will provide the foundation for more complex problems.

During a recent lesson in Suzie Etz’s and Lynn Hoffman’s co-teaching second grade classroom, students worked on metric measurement and mathematical concepts that will be the building blocks of algebra in later years. Students were given two known numbers and asked to solve for an unknown number, represented by a blank box. Visual tools and word problems are also incorporated into the math lessons, increasing multi-sensory learning.

At the middle and high schools, teachers are adapting the NYS modules into the curricula. Teachers are encouraged to take the time to work through the CCLS changes effectively and use the modules this school year as a resource, incorporating the modules into the district’s already focused, educational practices.

According to Alan Woods, Humanities Department Chair at the high school, the district’s focus has always been “to do what makes sense and what is right to make our kids successful.”

Parents have asked why the NYS modules are being adopted and adjusted at the elementary but not at the middle and high school, to which Woods explained, “Developmentally and progressionally, students need different things at different stages. The elementary program sets the broader conceptual stage that the middle and high school stages then refine. We’re all still targeting the same essential skills and standards, but in slightly different ways, using the tools and resources in the ways that make the most sense for the best outcome in student growth and achievement.”

Other schools across Oswego County are putting into practice a similar schedule with full implementation of the NYS modules in the younger grades.

The middle and high school teachers are using the tools and text that target the essence of the module lessons in their teaching. “Good tools combined with good practices will create a better product in the end,” said Woods. “Our teachers are adapting materials to the current curricula and making sensible changes that focus on the shifts.”

Woods believes the CCLS modules have a lot of good texts and strategies to offer. Like with any system, though, sometimes adjustments need to be made. “There are a lot of opportunities to write, and we want to make sure that students understand the structure of language as well as what makes a good piece of writing.” His curriculum includes increased opportunities to write varied pieces as well as good writing technique and structure, with an emphasis on textual evidence.

“There a lot of good things here,” Woods said of the CCLS. “Kids are doing more and harder work, and are more personally responsible for their own education.”

The balance, he believes, is finding the right mix. “How do we marry these good new practices with our own previous best practices? What new skills do the CCLS demand of us and how do we implement these in our daily instruction?”

For additional information regarding CCLS, resources are available on the PACS website at www.pacs.cnyric.org or through the New York State Education Department at www.engageny.org.