The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 2, 2013

Critical thinking hallmark of Common Core class

New standards outline skills students should have at each grade level

(Continued)

MIDDLETOWN, Del. — oooooo

In teacher Melissa Grieshober’s classroom, students have set aside work sheets in favor of a game board. On their 10-by-10 grid of numbers, they are playing a version of capture the flag, using flashcards to guide their moves: a “22-7” card lets them move 15 spaces; “16-9” allows them to move 7.

In pairs, the students try to reach targets on the board, not only by solving the problems at hand but by figuring out which cards would get them closer to their targets. It’s as much about probability, predictability and luck as it is about rote memorization of addition and subtraction tables.

In fact, in Grieshober’s classroom, there is no right or wrong way to figure out such problems. Yes, there are correct answers. But students are encouraged to explain how they got there.

“How did you reach that number?” Grieshober asked one of her third-grade students. “Show me your strategy for solving this.”

But what about those who say schools exist to teach students facts, such as 15 subtracted from 20 equals five?

“We are asking kids to do more, and to dig deeper,” Grieshober said after class. “We are teaching them to be lifelong problem solvers.”

She knows the criticism and political punch it carries. But she isn’t ready to ditch the benchmarks.

“It’s eye-opening when you come into a school,” Grieshober said. “I encourage any politician to go into a local school and see what it is.”

oooooo

Critics’ biggest disagreement with the standards is that students and teachers are being expected to do more and do it more quickly. If either group doesn’t keep up, there are serious consequences.

“Honestly, it’s overwhelming at first,” said Lara Crowley, an English and language arts specialist who is coaching teachers on the Common Core standards in Delaware’s Appoquinimink School District. “I had a hard time wrapping my head around how this was going to work.”

For instance, subtraction is now introduced in kindergarten instead of first grade.

“We were nervous,” Crowley said. “It raises the bar for us.”

For the students as well as the teachers.

Coinciding with the new standards are new tests for students and evaluations for teachers. The tests, mandated under the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law, help states identify schools that are struggling and provide them extra help.

The teacher evaluations were not originally part of the Common Core. But in exchange for millions of federal dollars to help them avoid layoffs during the worst of the recession, states agreed to greater accountability for students and teachers. Many opted to go with the Common Core and linked students’ progress with teacher performance.

In some places, such as New York and Minnesota, the shift to Common Core testing produced a steep drop in student scores, which reflected poorly on teachers.

“We know there is going to be a bump in the road. But we’re going to do our best for the students,” said Silver Lake Elementary School principal Cynthia Clay, a 31-year educator who has insisted her teachers receive training on the new standards.

Teachers meet in the evenings, during their planning periods and exchange emails asking how they might best approach the standards. Clay pulled together teachers with similar levels of experience so they could share their stories and realize they aren’t alone in their frustrations.

“In a perfect world, the tests would reflect how well the students are learning,” said Melissa Bowser, a 15-year classroom veteran.

But she, like her colleagues, expects there will be a decline in student scores.

“It will take two or three years,” said Sherry Frangia, who has taught for more than 30 years and is bracing for the dip in scores.

That doesn’t mean testing is the enemy.

“We need some sort of evidence that they’re learning,” Frangia said. “We didn’t get into teaching to stand up here and have nothing to show for it.”

Text Only
Headline News
  • West Africa Ebola outbreak tops 700 deaths

    The worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 deaths in West Africa as the World Health Organization on Thursday announced dozens of new fatalities.

    July 31, 2014

  • Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead

    A sharply divided House approved a Republican plan Wednesday to launch a campaign-season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding the bounds of his constitutional authority. Obama and other Democrats derided the effort as a stunt aimed at tossing political red meat to conservative voters.

    July 31, 2014

  • Obama takes tougher line against casualties in Gaza

    The Obama administration condemned the deadly shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza Wednesday, using tough, yet carefully worded language that reflects growing White House irritation with Israel and the mounting civilian casualties stemming from its ground and air war against Hamas.

    July 31, 2014

  • House approves VA overhaul

    The House overwhelmingly approved a landmark bill Wednesday to help veterans avoid long waits for health care that have plagued the Veterans Affairs Department for years.
    The $16.3 billion measure also would allow the VA to hire thousands of doctors and nurses and rewrite employment rules to make it easier to fire senior executives judged to be negligent or performing poorly.

    July 31, 2014

  • Contract dispute delays ‘Big Bang Theory’ production

    Production on a new season of “The Big Bang Theory” is being delayed because of a contract dispute with its top actors.

    July 30, 2014

  • What’s a group selfie? An usie

    What do you call a group selfie? An usie, of course!

    July 30, 2014

  • Senate changes House bill for highway funds

    The Senate on Tuesday voted to change the funding and timing of a House bill to keep federal highway funds flowing to states in an effort to force Congress to come to grips with chronic funding problems that have plagued transportation programs in recent years.

    July 29, 2014

  • State close to national average in credit card debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills.

    July 29, 2014

  • New VA secretary confirmed by Senate

    The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary, with a mission to overhaul an agency beleaguered by long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.

    July 29, 2014

  • W.Va. man arrested after child found in hot car

    A Wheeling man faces charges that he left his 18-month-old daughter in a hot car while he was asleep on a couch.

    July 29, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads