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Reading, writing and the Common Core

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 5:11 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 5:14 p.m. CDT

SPRING VALLEY – In the midst of all of the conversation regarding a referendum for a new Hall High School, Superintendent Mike Struna wanted to bring the subject back to academics at Thursday’s board meeting.

“There’s a lot of good going on academically,” Struna said.

Struna began by reviewing the district’s implementation of the new Common Core standards.

“It’s not really a national curriculum,” he said. “It’s more of a change in the way teaching is done.”

Struna said no district could implement all the standards at once, so Hall is making the changes one step at a time.

The first change chosen by the district is to increase the amount of non-fiction reading and writing. In many cases, that has meant students reading the textbooks and summarizing the main points themselves.

Struna said Common Core is shifting from the current method of filling students’ head with facts, and then asking them to give the information back on a test.

“The shift now is students have to be life-long learners. They have to learn how to learn,” he said.

The job of the teacher is to help the students be responsible for their own learning.

“I stress to the faculty, when I come into your class, I want to see the kids working more than you’re working,” he said.

Struna also talked about the district’s Response To Intervention program, which is a method of helping struggling students stay in the regular classrooms instead of moving them into special education classrooms. Struna said 80 percent of students will do well in a regular classroom, but 20 percent will need extra help. Of that 20 percent, 15 percent will benefit from what are termed Tier 2 interventions.

Assistant Principal Angie Carpenter said some of those Tier 2 interventions include monitoring of missing assignments and missing grades, and mandatory use of an assignment notebook. Carpenter said students are also taught study skills and habits, such as monitoring their own behavior, learning time management skills and attending group study sessions.

Carpenter said the remaining 5 percent of students receive Tier 3 interventions, which include individualized assignment sheets, a special homeroom, and assistance in planning the work they are responsible for at home.

“I’m very proud of this,” Struna said. “We’re doing a lot of things to help kids.”

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