Common Core debuts at RE-2 School District

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Along with the excitement and trepidation of returning to school, students in the RE-2 School District will be tasked with meeting the new standards adopted by the Colorado Department of Education in 2010.

The requirements are in line with the Common Core state standards developed by governors and teachers, as well as university and business leaders around the nation.

“The standards are more rigorous than what we used to have and more defined and specific,” said Linda Murray, the district’s assistant superintendent.

“In Colorado, our district included, we decide what textbooks and reading material to use as well as the curriculum. Teachers decide what projects to do, how to grade,” Murray said “These are not determined by the Common Core. We have control over what we do.”

The standards are for students from preschool through high school.

Sixth-graders, when reading narratives, are required to:

• Provide ideas and details and cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text; determine the theme or central idea of the text and how it is conveyed through particular details

• Provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments

• Describe how a particular plot unfolds and how the characters respond.

Requirements for sixth-grade students who read technical texts:

• Understand non-fiction and analyze factual information, including science and social studies. “Students will be asked to cite textual evidence to support analysis of what it says,” Murray said.

• Determine a central idea

• Analyze in detail how a key individual event, or idea, is introduced and elaborate

• Determine an author’s point of view and purpose

• Integrate information presented in different media formats as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue. “They have to be able to analyze the information and write about it. There are lots of vocabulary requirements, including knowledge of Greek and Latin affixes and roots as well,” Murray said.

The standards do not dictate what reading program must be taught. “That’s up to the teachers to decide what materials they are going to use to help the students meet the standards,” Murray said.

However, with Common Core, by the time students are in high school, they will have developed critical-thinking skills related to narrative as well as science and technical texts, Murray said. “And they’ll be able to write about these subjects as well.”

Common Core math standards are rigorous as well. For seventh-graders, the standards involve solving real-world problems relating to area, volume and surface areas of two-and three-dimensional objects composed of triangles, quadrilaterals, polygons, cubes and right prisms.

According to the standards found on the website - in math, students use critical thinking to recognize problematic aspects of given situations, create mathematical models and present and defend solutions.

To enhance students’ attention to detail, the RE-2 district offers a course on personal financial literacy. “This course is unique to Colorado in addition to the Common Core standards,” Murray said. “We want them to understand what it means to borrow money and how banks work, those kinds of things.”

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The standards are in line with international standards.

Granted, not all students will master the requirements. “In the state assessments we have kids who barely make it and kids who are way up in the advanced ranges,” Murray said. “At any given time we’re using that assessment data to see which students have mastered the requirements and what’s next. We are constantly pushing those kids into the advanced ranges.”

The standards are intended to help students who face challenges with changing schools. “At any given time, 15 percent of our students are mobile every year, so having students work on different levels is very confusing,” Murray said. “That’s why the states’ governors started this. We don’t have to choose one curriculum for the entire country but kids have to master the same kinds of things.”

The Common Core standards are at www.cde.state.co.us/corereadingwriting/statestandards and at www.cde.state.co.us/comath/statestandards.