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Common Core rollout planned

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Algebra teacher Cathy Heath teaches Homer High School ninth-graders on Thursday. The state Education Department last week announced plans to revamp its Common Core program that sets standards for public school students.

Students under the latest revision to Common Core won’t have to take the new tests until spring 2021 — giving them and teachers time to prepare — and probably won’t notice many classroom differences even then, educators said.

The state Board of Regents P-12 Committee approved on Sept. 11 the Next Generation Learning Standards for English Language Arts and mathematics. The full implementation begins in September 2020.

Students won’t notice much, said Homer High School Principal Douglas VanEtten, but the teachers who must prepare for the new standards will.

“The work will be for the staff to dig in and figure out what’s new, what’s stayed and what’s been recombined and how to present that in the best possible fashion,” Van Etten said.

The new standards, reached over two years of revisions, allow for more appropriate age-level learning, particularly when it comes to math, said Homer Central School District Superintendent Nancy Ruscio, including moving lessons on time and money skills to the first grade from kindergarten.

Ruscio said the gradual roll-out allows teachers ample time to familiarize themselves with new ways of teaching.

“We have lots of time for delving deeply into them and doing analysis, what’s the same, what’s different and doing professional development goes along with that,” she said.

Jeff Craig, Cortland’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, expects improvements just because more educators were involved in the revisions than in the original development of Common Core.

“For example, we’re instituting a program review cycle in which we review all of our curricula and programs every five years,” Craig said. “Some sort of periodic review of state standards might ensure that standards are evolving in a predictable way.”

“Our implementation timetable allows for professional development and curriculum development to occur before any student takes a state assessment based on the new standards,” state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said in announcing the changes. “That’s the fair and smart thing to do for our teachers and our students.”

The state Education Department, in its news release, praises the standards for creating age-appropriate learning conditions, particularly when it comes to the early childhood classroom.

Play is emphasized throughout the standards, rather than pitting play against more-structured learning, Elia said.

“The teachers I’ve worked with knew play was important in the primary grades and they made sure it happened,” said McGraw Schools Superintendent Melinda McCool. “But with the focus on tests and data — I think where there was fear, they need to know they have that permission to go back to solid instructional methodologies. This puts permission back out there for what we knew all along is really high quality instruction.”

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