Suffield school parents turned out in good numbers Monday night for an informative session about the new Common Core State Standards.
Led by administrators, the forum was a chance to parents to see how a new set of standards created by states all across the country will impact students in Connecticut and here in Suffield over the next few years.
“At its core, this is reform,” said Assistant Superintendent Jim Collin. “... this new set of standards will challenge all of us to deliver this curriculum and do it in new ways.”
These challenges include understanding math in a way that allows multiple paths to the right answer, “text complexity” and higher reading level expectations and engaging students in critical and strategic thinking to prepare make them “college and career ready.”
“I’ve been in education for 20 years and I’ve never seen such a fundamental shift,” Collin said. “... ramping up the the rigor of the K-12 experience is what this is about.”
“We have to be on board... or our kids will be left behind,” he added.
The high school will see an immediate difference in scheduling as all juniors will now be required to take a full-year course in language arts with electives available senior year, unless students are Advanced Placement eligible.
Language Arts Supervisor Sophia Gintoff explained the curriculum requires a new intensity for all students and so added requirements are necessary to get students where they need to be.
Parents in the audience seemed most concerned with how exactly the new curriculum and tests would address the gaps in the education with other successful countries.
One man questioned why there wasn’t more attention to science and technology. But according to Collin, technology is built into the curriculum and science standards are also undergoing changes in coming years.
Parents also questioned how teachers will grade students effectively and fairly across the board given the transition to “rubric” (or criteria-based) assessment. Officials said rubrics are already part of the curriculum and teachers are working to establish guidelines to “calibrate” the scoring.
“These are good, solid changes we are embracing,” said Karen Carpenter, McAlister principal.
She described the changes in the elementary math curriculum such as a more direct focus on fewer topics at a time with an emphasis on diving deep into process and critical use in the modern world.
Teachers will shape classroom instruction based on the backbone of the common core.
Following the move to the CCSS is a switch in standardized testing. Students will leave behind the Connecticut Mastery Test and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test taken in high school. In coming years the district will transition to Smarter Balanced Assessment which is more technology based and even uses computer testing to assess individual student learning.
“The test can self-construct based on what a student can do,” said Collin.
The test also differs in that it’s given during junior instead of sophomore year and is a 12-week testing sequence at the end of the final semester.
Administrators ended the night with an additional discussion on possible changes to a full-day kindergarten program, initiated in part due to the increasing standards on younger students. Please see Suffield.Patch.com for information on the kindergarten program later this week.