2012-13 curriculum will see serious changes
Michael Incavo and Spencer Lowe
Last school year, senior Emily Masich and graduate Matt Moleski- Belski went head-to-head in a round of AP Euro review jeopardy. AP Euro teacher Nick Chiorian puts together a game of review jeopardy at the end of each unit to prepare students for upcoming tests.
Patrick Burnett/The Explorer
“It’s what we’re doing now... on steroids,” says Brian Wilch, HHS principal.
The Common Core Standards, developed with the help of businesses, teachers, colleges and other consultants, were created to better prepare students for the language and math skills they’ll need in higher education and in their jobs, according to CoreStandards.org. Based on comprehensive research, the new Core isn’t a curriculum; it only provides goals and expectations for what students should know— it’s still up to teachers and district administrators to decide how these goals are to be reached.
Although these are national standards, each state must choose to adopt them. At press time, 45 states have signed on, but among those declining are Alaska and the ever-educationally-independent Texas.
These changes are coming fast. The states that have signed on must implement the new standards implemented by 2015. However, Hudson plans to apply the new standards in two years, by 2012-13. But writing an entirely new curriculum from the ground up, while teaching and working with this year’s students, is tough for teachers and administrators: “It’s like trying to change a tire while the car is driving,” says Wilch.
Hudson High School students will see quite a change in their learning process, most notably in an increased level of rigor, says district Curriculum Director Doreen Osmun.
“In terms of English, the volume of reading and writing will go up across the board,” Osmun says.
Reading analysis tasks, such as comparing and contrasting primary sources, will become more common, as will research projects.
Along with more writing comes more purpose: informational composition like persuasive writing and opinion pieces will be much more prevalent. English class reading will also become more interdisciplinary, reflecting a need communicated by American businesses for students to be able to comprehend non-fiction material of many different types.
English teacher and department head Jackie Hannan sees the increase in reading as crucial to students’ success.
“Smart people read. And students need to read. It doesn’t matter if it’s magazines, the blog they read every day or a graphic novel,” says Hannan.
Some works recommended by the Standards are titles that Hudson AP students currently read. Suggested compositions for grades 9-10 include Homer’s “Odyssey,” Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and interdisciplinary pieces, such as Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Recommended 11th grade works include some now-AP-level materials too: Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” “Hamlet” by Shakespeare, Toni Morrison’s “Bluest Eye,” as well as the “Declaration of Independence” penned by Jefferson and the “U.S. Bill of Rights.”
The overall theme is more rigorous for students across a broader spectrum of literature resulting in enhanced college and career readiness.
As for math, there will be less focus on individual concepts; and instead, more understanding of connections between skills and where to use them. Being able to simply solve the problems won’t cut it anymore; students will have to take the concepts and information used to solve the problems and apply it to unfamiliar ideas and situations. Instead of 50 practice problems for homework, a typical assignment might contain five complex, deeper-level problems that demonstrate students’ ability to apply the concept—not just to repeat the same thing over and over, says Osmun.
David Spohn, teacher and head of the HHS math department, explains the importance of application and connecting concepts: “Almost everything that many students have learned in Algebra can be done, perfectly, on a calculator that costs less than $150.”
The difference between math internationally and here in the U.S. lies, Spohn says, in the analysis and interpretation of the knowledge.
“Other countries in the world don’t teach courses called Algebra or Geometry. They teach a course called math,” says Spohn.
Under the new standards, students will gain a fuller understanding of math instead of learning specific, isolated skills, Spohn says, enabling students to apply these concepts to the real world. Hannan says the same of her department, adding that context and application are big parts of the new Core, and that students will answer surface-level, basic comprehension questions at home, allowing class time to be used for higher-level questions.
While Hudson is currently a very competitive institution, the new standards will still bring a step up in rigor and the complexity of the instruction here.
“I don’t think we have as much of a jump as other schools will because we have very talented students and very talented teachers to deliver the instruction,” says Osmun.
In the last decade, American schools have been falling behind internationally. These new standards are intended to start all American schools on an upward trend and to keep U.S. students competitive in an increasingly international workforce. The hope is that the Common Core Standards will better prepare students for real life jobs by challenging them more throughout high school.