Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, along with most of the country, Westerville City Schools is about to undergo one of the biggest educational shifts in decades. With Ohio’s adoption of the Common Core, schools are about to change—forever.
Currently, Algebra and Geometry classes have started implementing changes which impact class structure, objectives and testing.
The Common Core State Standards will be fully implemented in the coming year, setting new standards for public education. Designed in 2010 to reform the American education system it has now been adopted by 45 states.
The Common Core’s mission statement states, “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. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy,” according to corestandards.org.
The standards were developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers following extensive research involving individuals in various fields. The CCSSO drafted the written standards alongside the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.
Specific standards are set for Math and English, both following the mission statement that stresses the importance of individualized benchmarks to ensure students have full mastery of a concept before moving on.
“It should to be clear to every student, parent and teacher what the standards of success are in every school,” the CCSSO wrote.
Corestandards.org gives a wide range of information on the standards for both subjects, explaining the requirements students must meet at each grade level.
The Standards for Mathematical Practice focus on eight principles (see sidebar). The high school standards include numbers and quantity, algebra, functions, modeling, geometry, statistics and probability.
The biggest change can be seen in the push for kids to have greater understanding of math, and Honors Algebra II and AP Calculus teacher Kristen Patton sees the benefit.
“Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the mechanics of a process that we forget why or how the process works. This [understanding] can be detrimental to the learning process, in that the student may never be able to connect one topic to the next,” Patton said.
Not only does the Common Core push for greater understanding, but it puts greater emphasis on mathematical modeling. That is, adapting mathematics to real world situations.
Although teachers can meet the standards in many ways, WCS’s Algebra and Geometry classes have seen quite a structural change, focusing on collaborative learning.
Sophomore Joann Saleh said she’s noticed the change.
In her Geometry class, they sit in tables of four, but seating arrangements are not the only change to class structure.
“Instead of learning a lesson first, our table has to try to solve the problems together. When we have a question [for the teacher] we flip over a red cup, and when we want our answers checked, we flip over a yellow cup,” Saleh said.
Although Algebra III and Calculus classes will not see a change in standards, Patton said she will see a change in her incoming students.
“If students come to my [AP Calculus] class with a deeper understanding of mathematics, then of course the changes are beneficial, especially if they can be more prepared for higher levels of education beyond high school,” Patton said.
However, students heading into Patton’s AP Calculus class seem to have a level of confusion on the curriculum changes.
Junior Will Newton, who will be taking Calculus next year, said he was unaware of the changes being made to many math classes he took previously as an underclassman.
“I didn’t know about the Common Core standards, but I think the changes would have helped me better understand the concepts because I work well in groups,” Newton said.
Benchmark testing is also subject to change, and Patton’s Honors Algebra II students will be the highest level class to see the change.
“My students will be tested by an end of course assessment from the State of Ohio,” she said.
WCS’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Jennifer Knapp, is in charge of implementing the standards for the district.
“Next year’s students will take PARCC Assessments in grades 3-11 in Reading and Mathematics,” Knapp said.
Social studies and science tests will be administered in lower grade levels, eliminating the current OAA. The OGT, a current a graduation requirement and will continue to be one, until legislation changes.
These tests, however, are for all Algebra II students, thus the level of difficulty Patton’s honors students must meet is a concern of hers.
“I feel that much rigor of the honors classes will be lost, as they will no longer see the level of difficulty they have seen in the past,” Patton said.
Despite the concern for honors students, the focus on college readiness is crucial to bring all students up to speed.
“Across the country and in Ohio, we were seeing an increase in the number of remedial courses being taken in college. One of the goals of the new standards is to close that gap,” Knapp said.
Whether or not the Common Core Standards will increase college preparedness will be seen in the coming years.