Advertisement

Common Core standards coming to Pa. schools

July 30, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Revised educational standards designed to plug into a nationwide initiative are coming to Pennsylvania, which some school officials say could be beneficial for Franklin County’s schools on the Maryland border.

Common Core Standards might make transferring between Maryland and Pennsylvania schools easier, Greencastle-Antrim School District Superintendent C. Gregory Hoover said.

“The curriculum in Waynesboro and other schools in Franklin County will be very familiar to students coming from other states. Conversely, should any of our families relocate, our students will be well prepared to be successful in any other state,” Wendy Royer, assistant superintendent of the Waynesboro Area School District,  wrote in an email.

The nation’s governors and education commissioners developed Common Core to establish standards for kindergarten through the 12th grade in English and math. States are choosing whether to adopt the standards or tailor them.

In Pennsylvania, high-schoolers will be required to pass Keystone Exams in algebra, biology and literature to graduate. That regulation will begin with the Class of 2017, which will be entering ninth grade this fall.

Critics of Common Core say it takes away control at the local level.

Tim Eller, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, said that claim is a misinterpretation of Common Core. Eller said local instructional decisions will remain the responsibility of the state’s 500 public school districts.

“There is no mandatory curriculum coming down from the state,” he said.

Common Core started July 1 in Pennsylvania. However, the state Board of Education is continuing to review concerns before possibly releasing more information in September.

Eller said he does not anticipate any substantive changes, except possible editorial comments that the state will not collect massive data or use the national assessments.

The state already has academic standards that are being blended with those of Common Core, mostly to select the most rigorous options, Eller said.

The standards indicate what high school graduates should know, not the strategies or textbooks teachers should use, he said.

“Academic standards are statements of what students are expected to know and be able to do at specific grade levels. Standards focus on essential concepts, knowledge and skills necessary for students to succeed, and are designed to increase student achievement,” Royer wrote in the email, noting that the state essentially sets academic goals.

Waynesboro’s teachers are experts at differentiating learning to meet the diverse individual needs of students, she said.

Hoover said he prefers the Keystone Exams to the former standardized tests, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, for high school students. (The PSSAs will continue to be administered in grades three to eight.)

Keystone Exams are subject specific and administered at the end of a course to gauge success.

Students in the Class of 2019 will be required to pass four Keystone Exams, and those in the Class of 2020 will be required to pass five. Another five exams exist.

Hoover said he has concerns 10 exams would be too many, but he thinks the school district can align itself to the new standards as it has with the existing ones. He doesn’t anticipate many changes.

“We’re rewriting curriculum to match the standards,” he said, noting that happens every three years.

Waynesboro’s teachers are currently revising the district curriculum, Royer said. In some cases, content has shifted to a different grade, but she said there is an overall heightened focus on reading and writing.

The majority of professional development in 2012-13 was devoted to revising curriculum to align to the Common Core standards, Royer said.

Hoover expressed some surprise at the local control argument, saying individual teachers have some artistic freedom, but many requirements already exist.

“I don’t know we’ve had a lot of local control over curriculum anyway,” he said.

An increased availability of technology should assist in meeting Common Core standards that involve certain research methods, Royer said.

Students with individualized education programs, or IEPs, will meet those plans’ requirements for graduation, rather than follow the typical course under Common Core, Eller said.

Advertisement

Waynesboro has more information about Common Core on its website, www.wasd.k12.pa.us.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|