Common Core State Standards come to HCSD

Common Core State Standards come to HCSD

By Jessie Schirrick Posted December 12, 2012

Common Core State Standards or “CCSS” is making its way across the country. Its mission? To better educate and prepare the students of America on a huge scale. What are they? How will they benefit us? And how will they affect us in years to come?

Tim Connors, Grass Valley Elementary School Principal, further explained the purpose of the CCSS.

“The purpose of the Common Core State Standards is to move a student to a 21st-century learner and to help establish that all students are on an even playing field,” said Connors.

So far, 45 states and 3 territories have adopted these standards. These standards have been designed to better prepare kids for the future. For some states, this will not ensure much of a change at all, but for others the change is drastic.

“CCSS is a national initiative proposed by all the state governors and then followed through with by all the state superintendents. The goal was to create standards that are followed by all states and to create a national assessment that is taken by all students,” said Dr. Bill Myhr, Humboldt County’s assistant superintendent.

“What we have currently is 50 states with their own state standards and their own state assessments and there’s a wide range of difficulty; some are extremely easy and some are extremely high. This is an attempt to create a high standard for all states,” said Myhr regarding the current situation.

What about in our hometown? In what way will this affect us? As Winnemucca is considered a rural area by most standards the change is expected to be extreme.

“It will most definitely be a drastic change in almost every school district in the United States because these standards are asking, literally, for 98% of our students to become and begin to take or acquire college prep skills,” said Myhr.

Myhr is confident the HCSD teachers and students can meet the new standards as testing begins in the 2014-2015 school year.

“Yes we can, but it will take time. This is something that all of our teachers and all of our students are going to be able to do in the year 2014-2015 when the assessment begins,” said Myhr.

In reality, the CCSS has already been introduced to the people of Winnemucca.

Connors seems to be confident in the school district that it can handle this and adapt to this successfully.

“I think we can do it. I think a lot of it we’ve already been doing, we just need to keep plugging along and try to make sure that we meet the needs of all individuals,” said Connors.

Myhr agrees with Connors’ sentiment.

“Locally I’m providing all of our Humboldt County school faculties with four modules that I created from a number of sources in order to give them first, an overview of the standards and the philosophy, and then some strategies and how they need to look in a classroom. Also, the specific assessment format to see how they look in a classroom and then some specific detail of how the assessment’s going to look and how they can now change their own instruction and change the assessments within the classroom to help prepare their students for the assessment, as well as reasons why their curriculum needs change,” said Myhr.

There are many reasons why the government thought the CCSS was needed.

“So one of the major shifts in common core is over the last 40-50 years we have seen our American textbooks drop dramatically in terms of difficulty, whereas we see college textbooks remain at the same Lexile [readling] level. That is one of the major reasons why many of our students, even with honors and straight-A’s, go to college and are unable to place into college-level classes because we’ve literally allowed our level of standards within our classroom to drop, said Myhr.

Although the CCSS affects all areas of the school, one of the main focuses is on literature and reading and writing skills.

“There is a major shift because of the global economy and because of the informational age that we’re living in and technology, especially on a global scale, that we now need to shift what we read in the classroom from 80-75% of literature, poetry, short stories, and we need to shift to more informational texts, historical texts, technical texts because that is what our students are going to see in the real world. They will have to be able to read complex, high-level, informational texts for 80% of the careers that we now have or have not created yet,” said Myhr.

“So because of that the biology teacher is going to have to make sure our students can read informational texts and not only understand the vocabulary, but also read it and comprehend it and understand it. We need for all students to be able to go on the internet and read articles and listen to videos and be able to take different pieces of writing or multiple pieces of text and then draw conclusions and be able to defend themselves in an argumentative type paper or speech through digital text. That’s one of the big emphases is that by the time students graduate high school they are going to be able to read multiple texts, draw the information out, put it back into a speech or into major essays, and be able to defend themselves based on what they’ve read or researched rather than what their personal opinion is or their values and personal experiences,” said Myhr.

Connors gave an example of what will actually be expected of students.

“The expectations are going to be higher; instead of two plus two equals four, students are going to have to be able to apply why two plus two equals four and how that applies to real life. I think that students will just get a broader range of knowledge for each standard.”

Connors is confident that teachers and students are up to the challenge.

“We have excellent teachers and excellent students, we’re just going to have to work together on it and do the best we can. Right now public education has a black eye, but public education is one of the greatest things this country’s founded upon, and hopefully, we can just continue to move forward and produce some great people. When the changes come we’ll just continue to get that much better,” said Connors.

Another major shift is not only the complexity of the Lexile levels and complexity in vocabulary but also that we’re shifting from a literary text in our classroom to literally an informational text in our classrooms. Now with our grade school being 50/50 and by the time we get to high school, it will be 80/20 with 80 being the informational text