Strengthening the Core

Posted August 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

Ruth A. Moller|The Miller Press

•C&C Backpack donation.jpg

BACK TO SCHOOL supplies add up, and Miller C & C helped out by donating to the Backpack Buddies program. The Miller C & C took a new spin on Crazy Day this year by giving out free school supplies to kids during the annual event on Main Street Miller on Saturday, July 27. The C & C purchased 700 school supplies including notebooks, pencils, erasers, rulers, glue, tissues and folders. Some 350 leftover supplies were given to the Backpack Buddies program for distribution. This is the second year Liz Welk has been in charge of the Backpack program, which was begun by Hannah Caffee. Welk says additional items will be added, when the admission to a special kids’ surprise movie at the Midway Drive-In on August 15 will be school supplies. Supplies will be distributed to students August 16. Pictured l to r, Greg Palmer, C & C president; Liz Welk, Backpack program coordinator; and Kecia Beranek, office assistant.

Strengthening the Core

Common Core Standards explained

Americans all across the nation are thinking about and working on strengthening their “core.” A strong core is the goal for good health and well-being. The way to get a strong core is to exercise and eat right. The exercise has to be rigorous and relevant to the core muscle area. And just like health and fitness, education in South Dakota is seeking a strong “core.” Many people have heard about the Common Core Standards, but unfortunately, not many people outside the education field know what those standards mean to the future of education and ultimately, the future of our nation. In our article, Mr. Schumacher and I will attempt to describe Common Core standards, explain their importance and also tell how our teaching and administrative staff, are preparing themselves to implement the Common Core Standards.

On November 29, 2010, the South Dakota Board of Education moved to adopt the Common Core Standards. At the time of this writing, South Dakota is one of 45 states that has adopted the Common Core Standards. The standards are a set of clear educational standards for English language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. The intent in adopting these standards is to make sure that all students are learning the same curriculum at the same grade level all across the nation. This insures that when a student moves to a new home, he/she will be at the same educational spot as the students in the new school. Common Core standards are more rigorous and more relevant to their real world experiences.

While the Common Core standards are new, they are not reinventing the wheel. The basics will be taught such as number facts and reading great literature. The work that students do will be more challenging. Students will read more advanced works at earlier grades. They will read more non-fiction informational texts. They will be asked to explain their reasoning with evidence in both math and language arts. The goal of the S.D. Department of Education is to make sure that all students graduating high school are college and/or career ready.

After South Dakota decided to adopt the Common Core Standards, the Department of Education launched the “Common Core Professional Development” series for teachers and administrators. Because the state felt so strongly about Common Core, they also offered stipends for teachers and administrators to attend this professional development. Some of the training was done face-to-face and some was done with on-line courses.

Miller School was one of the first to send teachers to Common Core training. Miller sent a select group of teachers to the pilot training in the summer of 2011. Since that time more teachers from Miller have been trained. In-service during the 2012-2013 school year has also provided additional Common Core training for all staff. Administrators from Miller School have also completed on-line Common Core training. In addition to Common Core training, we had three teachers participate in the Common Core Curation Project. The essence of this was to find units of study that had already been written across the United States that address various Common Core Standards. These units are stored and are to be used as a valuable on-line resource to classroom teachers in South Dakota. This program is known as MyOER.

The underlying outcomes for the “Common Core Professional Development” series are:

• Provide teachers with a hands on experience to gain a deeper understanding of the standards;

• Investigate how the Common Core standards impact teaching practices;
• Learn about the Common Core standards starting with the end in mind, how the standards can be assessed, working through curriculum planning;
• Give teachers opportunities to collaborate with other teachers from their grade levels as they understand Common Core standards;
• Emphasize standards-driven curriculum;

• Utilize Standards in Practice® theory and Understanding by Design model to gain model units of how to teach the standards that illustrate the vision;
• Connecting relevant initiatives and the 4 Rs (rigor, relevance, relationships, results).

Finally, S.D. schools will be a part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to provide standardized testing for students. There are currently 30 states that have joined this consortium. The tests will use state-of-the-art adaptive online exams to evaluate students in grades 3-8 and high school English language arts and mathematics. This testing will replace the current Dakota Step Test, which has been used for a number of years. It is expected that scores will be lower, especially in the first few years as students and schools adjust to the new standards. The end goal is to have all students leave high school prepared for college or career with increased student learning and improved teaching.