BY SARAH GREGORY
Clearing up "misinformation" about Common Core State Standards was the goal of a presentation Monday for the Greene County Board of Education's Curriculum Committee.
In an hour-long meeting, held in the library at Chuckey-Doak High School, board members received an overview of the standards' history, goals, development, and implementation -- which will continue in the upcoming 2013-14 school year.
Kindergarten through Eighth Grade Curriculum Supervisor Kristi Wallin and Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk explained different aspects of the standards and answered committee members' questions.
Although widely adopted by states, the Common Core State Standards have become somewhat controversial. Some citizens, parents and educators in many areas of the nation have voiced a variety of concerns.
Kirk said that a more comprehensive presentation on the standards will be given during the school board's fall retreat.
Monday's discussions, she said, would help shape that overview to better address questions and concerns.
Other presentations throughout the community are in the planning stages, Kirk said.
CLEARING UP 'MISINFORMATION'
The Curriculum Committee has decided, Kirk said, to meet quarterly and focus on different topics, starting with Monday's overview of Common Core.
"There's a lot of misinformation out there, but this has been going on for a while," she said.
"Teachers and education people are pretty comfortable with it, so we just need to get the word out about what it really is."
STANDARDS ARE NOT NEW
Education standards are not a new concept for Tennessee, Kirk and Wallin explained.
Standards -- defined expectations of what students should know at the completion of each course -- have been in place in Tennessee for a number of years.
Standards have, in fact, Wallin and Kirk said, been in place in Tennessee for decades.
Work on the Common Core standards, Kirk said, began in 2008 under the leadership of then-Governor Phil Bredesen with Gov. Bill Haslam continuing implementation of the initiative.
The state officially adopted Common Core in 2010.
Implementation began in the 2011-12 school year for kindergarten through second grade. In the 2012-13 school year, third through eighth grade started using the standards.
Teachers have continued preparing throughout the summer for continued implementation during the 2013-14 school year.
Five weeks of Common Core training sessions have been conducted at Greeneville High School during June and July, Kirk told committee members.
MORE RIGOROUS, ENGAGING
The new standards emphasize real-world math without calculators and focus on basic skills in reading.
The result is a much more rigorous learning process for students that focuses on knowledge and skill development.
Students will be more engaged in critical thinking as Tennessee attempts to strengthen its competitiveness, it was stated at the meeting.
Currently, only 21 percent of adults in Tennessee have a college degree, and 54 percent of new jobs will require post-secondary education, Wallin said.
Tennessee ranks 46th in the nation in fourth-grade mathematics and 41st in fourth-grade reading.
Only 16 percent of Tennessee high school seniors are considered "college-ready."
Common Core in Tennessee is part of a statewide mission "to become the fastest-improving state in the nation," Wallin said.
"Doing so will require hard work and significant learning for all. We must learn to teach in ways we were not taught ourselves," she said.
A DIFFERENT WAY
"That's been one of the harder transitions" to Common Core, Wallin explained.
"It's hard for teachers to teach differently than they were taught. That's one reason it's been difficult for parents to understand, because it's not how they were taught, either," she said.
"So when the students bring home work that's not like what they brought home as students, that causes a little confusion," she said.
BENCHMARKS, NOT A CURRICULUM
Common Standards are not a curriculum, Wallin and Kirk explained.
The standards are defined goals for what students should learn and are set by the state. They "build a foundation," Kirk said.
Curriculum, set by local districts and schools, Wallin said, "is the road map for meeting those goals."
Textbook adoption is still done by districts, Kirk explained to answer a question from school board member Deborah Johnson.
The state, Kirk said, sets criteria for textbooks, and evaluates textbook options based on that.
Districts then generally choose from those lists, Kirk said, clarifying that there are processes for using texts not on the state's lists, but such action, she said, "is cumbersome."
PARCC EXAMS MEASURE READINESS
PARCC exams -- tests developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers -- will measure "full range" of Common Core standards, Wallin said.
Wallin reviewed some types of questions that PARCC will use.
The examples she reviewed with the board all required multiple steps to answer, using a number of different skills.
The exams will be administered online, allowing more flexibility in the types of questions that can be used, will "reflect the nature of college and career work" that will be done on computers, and will return results more quickly, Wallin said.
The exams will replace TCAP tests in math, reading, and writing in grades three through 11. Science and Social Studies will still be measured with TCAP tests.
CONCERN ABOUT LITERATURE
One concern, Johnson said, was the effect Common Core standards would have on teaching literature. Kirk said it was a concern she, too, had at first.
"We will continue to teach good literature. English teachers will still teach good literature," Kirk said.
Common Core standards, she said, will increase the amount of non-fiction reading students do, however, she added, especially in other classes, such as social studies.
More "primary documents," Kirk said, will be used in class, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.
NOT FOR DATA COLLECTION
As the presentation continued, Wallin explained that the Common Core standards are "not a tool for data collection."
Tennessee, she said, has collected student information through TCAP in the past in accordance with state and federal law, and the new assessments will not change that process.
"The federal government does not have access to student-level information housed in state data systems," she explained.
RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION
After discussing increased rigor students will face will full Common Core implementation, Johnson asked how the school system will help students who are "really struggling to meet the standards."
An intiative called Response To Intervention, or RTI, Kirk said, is in development for that purpose.
RTI uses a system of tiers to provide increasingly-focused instruction to students struggling to meet the standards in reading and mathematics, Kirk explained.
Tier one is 90 minutes of grade-level instruction for everyone.
A second tier for students not progressing typically, Kirk said, will provide 20 to 30 additional minutes of instruction with students in small groups.
Tier three, she said, will be for groups of one to three students needing more focused instruction.
"We've been working on that [Response To Intervention] for the last couple of years in Greene County," Kirk explained.
"We"ve got a pretty good model. The state's developed a model also. They've been working on their model while we've been working on ours, and we're pretty well aligned with what they expect," she said.
"By this time next year, you will have to have it in place. We pretty much have it in place now," she said.