Schools start transition to new curriculum
TRI-COUNTY AREA—Teachers and administrators are working to implement a new state mandated curriculum that changes what students learn in all grade levels.
The state’s timeline for having the curriculum in place starts with 2012-13, for grades three to eight.
Penn Yan Superintendent David Hamilton explained the Core Curriculum will affect all students in the district, not just the initial grades three to eight. The changes include shifts in how and what students are expected to learn. For example, Hamilton said in English Language Arts classes students will be reading more nonfiction, informative books. For math, Hamilton said the focus will not only be on the student solving problems, but understanding the material. The shift, as Hamilton and others have called it, is away from “a mile wide and an inch deep.” After finishing a grade level, students will be expected to be proficient in a certain number of abilities.
Penn Yan will start implementing the changes this year. Hamilton said the teachers themselves requested to do just that.
Dundee Superintendent Kathy Ring explained the new curriculum has various shifts in how students will learn. As an example, she said students in kindergarten to fifth grade will read more nonfiction, making English Language Arts a more balanced inclusion of literature and nonfiction. She added that in grades sixth to 12, ELA will use predominately nonfiction.
Ring said math teachers will present fewer concepts, but try and give students a deeper understanding of those concepts. She said this differs from how math currently covers many concepts in a school year.
“I think it’s challenging, but at the same time exciting,” said Ring.
Hammondsport high school Principal Tad Rounds explained the New York State Education Department made the changes to curriculum, kindergarten to grade 12, based on what would make a student ready for college level work. He said the state worked with the SUNY and CUNY college systems to decided what students should be learning, and then worked backwards through the grade levels making changes.
Rounds called the changes radical, saying they put higher expectations on the students. He added the new curriculum makes areas like math more efficient. Elementary Principal Michelle Sincerbox said as an example, second grade students will be expected to know their multiplication tables.
Hammondsport Superintendent Kyle Bower said another change will be elementary teachers needing to focus more on one subject area as opposed to teaching a large number of topics. He added this will then change what high school teachers do; focusing on more than one topic.
Several Hammondsport teachers spoke in favor the upcoming curriculum at the Sept. 21 school board meeting. The physics teacher said under the current curriculum, students start the course without the required mathematical knowledge. She explained she then has to spend the first three weeks going over the prerequisite math.
Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips said Watkins teachers reviewed their material and asked, “what impact will you play in June when that child can walk across the stage (at graduation).” He said teachers will focus on teaching skills and making sure the students each a school year with new skills.
This also means more cooperation and crossing over to other subject areas. Phillips said, “nothing works in isolation anymore.”
However, Phillips said he has issues with teaching under the new curriculum, but then testing students under the old Regents as part of the transitional period. He explained all assessments will be in place by 2015. He added part of teacher performance reviews will be based on student testing; what students learn under the new curriculum may not be what’s tested under the old curriculum.