Quay County schools adopting Common Core

All Quay County public school students from kindergarten to 12th grade will be learning based on the Common Core Curriculum when they start classes on Aug. 19.

Teachers are receiving direction on approaches to take in teaching common core skills in training sessions that precede the start of the new school year this week and next, superintendents said.

Local superintendents are enthusiastic about the common core.

“Students should have better critical thinking skills,” said Craig Terry, principal of Logan’s K-12. In some subject areas, he said, students should be able to think and do research in some depth. In mathematics, he said, the Common Core will teach “new skill sets and different ways to solve problems.”

The new standards, he said, “will push us to better performance.”

House Schools Superintendent Lecil Richards said, “We’re going full blown into Common Core.” House schools, he said will be working closely with the school districts in Grady and Fort Sumner to help all improve their adaptation of the Common Core standards.

Colin Taylor, superintendent of San Jon schools, said, “The standards are concise and focused on skills.” Previous standards, he said, were “ a mile wide and an inch deep” in exposing students to new academic skills.

Tucumcari’s Assistant Superintendent Dave Johnson said Common Core will receive major emphasis throughout the city’s schools this year. In fact, he said, Tucumcari schools have been selected to field test the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, one of the first standardized tests built around the new Common Core principles. Individual school principals, he said, will determine how the new standards will be implemented.

Taylor said there is some “concern and angst” over the PARCC tests, especially since Kentucky schools found that students there scored dismally on it, according to his reading on the subject.

“The jury is out” on the PARCC tests, Taylor said. A few states, he said, have adopted the common core without adopting PARCC.

The Common Core Curriculum is the product of an initiative of state governors through the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Both groups continue to oversee the initiative. Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country, together with state leaders, contributed to the development of the standards, according to the Common Core website at www.corestandards.org.

According to the Common Core website, the federal government was not involved in the design of the standards: “States across the country collaborated with teachers, researchers, and leading experts to design and develop the Common Core State Standards. Each state independently made the decision to adopt the Common Core State Standards.”

Tucumcari’s Assistant Superintendent Johnson said he, too, is a staunch advocate for local control of education, but he thinks the Common Core is a “great idea.”

It represents an aggregate of many state standards, he said, and standardizes definitions of these principles. In addition, he said, the standards were benchmarked against the best examples available from each of the states and other countries.

“The fact that five of the states have not accepted the Common Core,” he said, “shows that the adaptation of these standards is voluntary.”

A look at Common Core standards on websites at the state and national level, show that this curriculum of skills seeks to develop critical thinking abilities in reading and writing, and algebra-type math skills, starting as early as first grade.

In elementary school math, for instance, “the focus is on the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of whole numbers, fractions and decimals, with a balance of concepts, skills and problem solving,” according to the state’s common core website. “Arithmetic is viewed as an important set of skills and also as a thinking subject that, done thoughtfully, prepares students for algebra.“

Taylor said the goal of the math skills in the common core is to develop a deep understanding of concepts so that students develop the ability to apply these concepts to problems they’ve never seen before, a situation they are likely to confront in the working world.

Even in the first grade, the common core standard for writing requires students to “participate in shared research and writing projects.

The common core takes new technology and tools into account, as well. The long-term goals for reading, for instance, go beyond the printed word to include the ability to “integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.”

Underwriting, the goals call for students to learn how to:

• “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.”

• “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.”

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