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PES discusses Common Core Standards

PRINCETON — Barb Valle, curriculum coordinator for Princeton Elementary School and Princeton High School districts, told PES Board members Monday night about the early stages of implementation of the Common Core State Standards into the districts’ curriculum.

The standards, adopted in 2010 by 48 states for English language arts and math, are designed to provide clear, consistent academic benchmarks with “fewer, clearer and higher” academic standards, Valle said in a power point presentation to board members at Reagan Middle School in Tiskilwa.

The aim of the standards is to prepare all students to be successful in college and a career after high school, reported Valle.

“The new standards are intended to raise U.S. students to international level of competence and understanding,” she said. “Instruction will also need to change to foster deep understanding in addition to the fluency and proficiency needed in all the skill areas.”

These standards ensure all American students are prepared for the global economic workplace, Valle added.

Valle reported that the majority of students leave high school without the necessary reading and writing skills needed to succeed in college and a career. Many of the 1.2 million students who leave high school every year without a diploma have low literacy skills.

Many students earning a diploma also must take remedial courses in college, she said. However, these students are less likely to earn a degree or a certificate.

Students need advanced literacy skill to succeed in a fast-paced, global economy.

PES and PHS districts also need to develop a curriculum aligned to these standards, added Valle.

“However, to do this, we have to develop a transition plan,” she said. “Because essential skills are moving between grade levels, we cannot simply adopt the standards or students will miss out or have gaps in their learning.”

For both districts, it is exciting to be working hand in hand to ensure that all students have the skills to be successful in college or a career, added Valle.

“Everyone is anxious to have one curriculum pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that is spiraling and sequential,” she added. “By collaborating about the curriculum and standards, we have a shared investment of time and talent.”

Valle said time is needed to understand and implement the standards into the districts’ curriculum and to develop one curriculum that is spiraling and sequential. She estimated it would take four to five years to fully implement the common core state standards into the districts’ curriculum.

In addition, there will be an increased emphasis on technology, especially when the new assessments are implemented in 2014, she indicated.

The new assessments will be skill based, not content based, as the standardized tests students currently take in PES and PHS every year.

Beginning this year, 25 percent of questions on the ISAT will be linked to the common core state standards. Next year, 100 percent of ISAT will be common core questions.

“Everyone knows that students will not start out doing well on these tests,” she said. “Scores will not be where they have always been. We need to focus on how students improve on this test, not where students begin.”

Doris Hamilton, board member, said after Valle’s presentation that she feels this is one of the best things that have happened in education for years and years. “It is most exciting,” she said.

Superintendent Tim Smith said these standards will help students develop skills, not just content as in the past with standardized tests.

“We didn’t collect data on the same kids in the past,” he said. “We will be doing that in the future.”

He wanted board members and parents to know that this will take the district the right way to educate students.

“I have never been more confident about the way we are going,” he said. “The curriculum will lead us.”

Smith said in the 16 years he has been a PES administrator, he has never seen all the PHS and PES teachers together in one place like they were on Oct. 5 during a staff development time held at PHS to hear about common core state standards.

Valle said teachers are enthusiastic, working hard, talking to each other, open minded and excited about getting common core state standards put into the district’s curriculum in math and English language arts.

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