Common Core standards implemented in English and math departments

Lena Kogan, Staff Writer

This year our school, among many others, has begun making changes to its English and mathematics curricula.  New York was among the first states to begin applying new Common Core standards for teachers and students throughout its public schools, and forty-four other states have also joined the initiative.

According to the Common Core website, “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.”

“Common Core is generally related to this idea of helping all students become college ready,” said Principal Mr. Ira Pernick.

These standards focus on providing students with skills beyond those required to pass a class.  Over the summer, the math department re-wrote the algebra curriculum to fit the Common Core standards.

“Common Core focuses on helping students see their math and be able to talk and speak about their math using specific language appropriately, as math is a language in and of itself,” said Mr.  Pernick.

Besides the changes to the algebra curriculum, the Algebra Regents have also been moved to June 3, on the same date as next year’s Geometry and English Regents.

“I think it’s actually helpful that the Regents are being moved up because we can get it out of the way and focus more on preparing for finals in other subjects,” said freshman Diana Brennan.

Although some students have expressed concern over limited teaching time, others feel that the new testing date shouldn’t matter.

“I think as long as the teacher prepares the students well enough then it shouldn’t matter if the Regents are a few weeks earlier, as long as we are prepared for the test,” said freshman Julia Hayden.

Still other students and staff members have problems with the Common Core curriculum as a whole because it puts an increased emphasis on regulations and standardized testing.

“I think the Common Core standards are too strict, and they have allow for too much testing,” said junior Samuel Kang. “I don’t think they really allow for creative thinking in students.”

On paper, the Common Core English standards strive to prepare students with writing styles and learning skills that can be used outside the classroom.

Although the new curriculum will still focus on reading, writing, and speaking, the English standards are meant to impact other subject areas as well.

“All but one of the standards are applicable across curricular areas,” said Mr.  Pernick. “There is an expectation that students write in every subject, that students speak using appropriate language in every subject.  The idea is for Common Core to impact the entire school, not just math and English.”

The program focuses on creating standards based on what skills colleges and businesses have been looking for in the last several decades, but being college ready doesn’t mean focusing only on the students currently applying to college.  In fact, these new standards are not only affecting our district at the high school level as the program is being implemented in the elementary schools as well.

“I think in general its good for us, as educators, to examine our curriculum periodically to see where we can make enhancements,” said Mr. Pernick.  “Students aren’t always the same and as culture changes, we need to change our curriculum.”

The desire to ensure that students are prepared for college-level courses and have the skills required to succeed in higher education is mutual among staff members and school administrators.

The initiative is organized at a state level, but the organization is overseen by the national government by way of representative organizations such as National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The organizations are also keen on communicating with communities like Port Washington on a local level, through school administrators, parents, staff, and students.

The initiative began in 2010 and has been appiled to education systems from kindergarten through twelfth grade throughout the nation since.

“The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach,” according to www.commoncore.org. “Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.”

Several organizations are currently developing plans for future incorporation of the Common Core standards into science, world languages, and the arts.

“All of this is still an extra stressor on schools, on students, on teachers, even on principals,” Mr. Pernick said.  “This is brand new, and when we don’t know what outcomes are going to be, it creates anxiety.  So we’re all trying to be optimistic that the results are going to be good.”