To help explain this initiative, the Garden City Union Free School District is introducing a new “Question of the Week” feature. The complete listing of the questions and answers will be posted on the district website under “Common Core FAQs.”
What is the Common Core?
The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) are guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at various points in their school careers. The standards are designed to promote critical thinking, encourage a deep understanding of content and build skills with the goal of enabling all students to be college-and-career ready by the end of twelfth grade.
The CCLS were developed by a large, distinguished panel of experts from diverse universities and educators working in the field. They were based upon “some of the best standards covered from States across the country, as well as from other nations and extensive research on what’s needed to succeed in jobs and higher education.” The Common Core has been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
The Common Core Standards are not a curriculum or a particular course of study. Garden City Public Schools has been, and continues to be, in charge of its curricula. Our teachers do not use scripted lessons. In fact, we encourage creativity in the quest to arouse student interest in the material and promote meaningful involvement in class activities.
What is good about the Common Core?
The Common Core Learning Standards address several of the concerns voiced about previous sets of standards. (Learning standards are nothing new in New York State; the Board of Regents has promulgated standards for a number of years to serve as frameworks to guide school districts as they construct their own curricula.) Previous criticisms of math curricula, for example, noted that the material was “a mile wide and an inch deep.” This problem often left students with superficial knowledge of important math concepts and, as a result, students who mastered material by rote were unable to apply their understandings of mathematics to new situations encountered later in their studies in Garden City, in college or “in real life.” The new math standards also devote more attention to developing understandings of place value, fractions and algebraic concepts, thereby providing a stronger foundation and skill-set for students as they prepare for post-secondary education.
In English language arts, the CCLS encourage students to expand their reading horizons and includes a greater emphasis on non-fiction and close reading of texts. In writing, students are expected to provide deeper levels of analysis and use sources effectively to support their points.
It is important to note that the CCLS address only the areas of English language arts and mathematics.
Must the District follow the Common Core?
Yes. As a public school district in New York State, Garden City is required to follow state standards as guidelines as it constructs its own curricula. The school district has been implementing the Common Core gradually, first by studying it during the 2010-11 school year, and then by making prudent changes and adaptations to existing curricula during the past two years.
Watch this column in subsequent weeks for more answers to questions and concerns about the Common Core and other New York State mandates. You can also visit the district’s website under “Departments,” “Curriculum and Instruction,” to access useful links. If you are a resident of the school district and have a specific question you’d like answered about the CCLS, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by the Garden City School District