The 2014-15 school year marks a critical turning point for Oakdale Joint Unified School District administrators, teachers and most importantly, students. Effective this school year all school sites will be adopting a new math curriculum in keeping with the national Common Core State Standards.
It’s an undertaking that was mandated statewide in August of 2010, with a timeline and transition period to enable educators and administrators appropriate time for training and adoption of a curriculum that best suits their district.
OJUSD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Kristi Rapinchuk recently sat down with The Leader to share her thoughts and views on CCSS, as well as dispel any confusion or concerns.
Fact vs. Myth
Myth: The national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) means that there is now one national curriculum that all students must learn from.
Fact: CCSS are educational standards that describe what students should be able to do by the end of a grade level in Math and English Language Arts. In California there is now more curriculum for teachers to choose from than ever before, because there is no longer a short list of curriculum options.
Translation: Common Core is a standard, it is not a curricula.
Myth: The Common Core State Standards are less rigorous.
Fact: During the current school year math is the only new curriculum in Oakdale schools. The district selected Eureka Math (commonly referred to as Engage New York) for grades TK-8 and Math Vision Project for grades 9-12. An average math lesson now spends 50 percent of the time or more devoted to students understanding the concept of the math skill being taught versus memorization to ‘solve the problem.’
Translation: Students are now being engaged in math problems and being taught to think through problems. Much of this is done through class participation.
Myth: Common Core Math sends the message that there is no right answer.
Fact: The selected curriculum regularly requires students to show their answer with algorithm (equation), a model to summarize their findings in words. Students have to show they understand the concept (the model), the skill (the algorithm) and the application (the summary). Students are allowed to find the answer in more than one way as long as they can prove that it is replicable (their approach would work in any situation).
Translation: Through the challenge of showing work, students are being more engaged in thought for solution versus relying solely on memorization, hence giving them the skills and foundation to grow as students well versed in mathematic applications.
Myth: Common Core won’t prepare our students for the future.
Fact: Throughout the nation, most of the jobs students will be competing for will be in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (commonly known as STEM). We want to prepare our students to feel both comfortable and confident pursuing these fields upon graduating high school. A lot of high powered jobs are given away to other countries, California hires engineers from other countries. OJUSD intends to prepare students to compete for these jobs in the global economy they will be entering. CCSS are internationally benchmarked. They both meet and exceed expectations in other countries with comparably developed educational systems.
Translation: CCSS is not a change geared to alter for the sake of simply changing things. The ultimate goal of the standard is to groom and prepare students for future STEM careers and opportunities.
“California set the expectation that there would be a transition plan,” Rapinchuk stated. “In 2011 we had a team of approximately 14 teachers attend a week-long training. During that week we developed a tentative transition plan.”
According to the Assistant Superintendent the chosen curriculums Eureka Math (grades TK-8) and Math Vision Project (grades 9-12) have been the most popular amongst the varying districts in Stanislaus County.
Under the new CCSS guidelines, schools must adopt new curriculums in both Mathematics and English Language Arts. Each district was allowed to choose which to implement first.
Rapinchuk shared that the district identified Mathematics as its first phase of CCSS.
“The only new curriculum for this year is in math,” Rapinchuk said. “We’ve done that because we feel we need to do that well.
“People think it’s a naturalized curriculum,” she said, “one forced down a district’s throat. This could not be further from the truth. This is a set of standards that is more focused. They’re also internationally benchmarked.”
Rapinchuk said it’s a change that ultimately will benefit students.
“This way of teaching math is more focused, than under our previous standards,” she explained. “Another way it’s impacted … and not just Oakdale … we should have a lot more kids going into STEM professions. We give too many jobs to other countries. This curriculum is going to place our students on an even playing field for jobs in these industries.”
Rapinchuk acknowledged the vast difference between how math was taught before versus now, recognizing that the Engage New York approach engages the student in thought more than memorization. The expectation of students knowing math fact to automaticity still exists, however, now students are being challenged and stretched to show work and think through solutions.
“Our teachers are to be commended for their heroic effort to do this work, because it’s a lot of work,” Rapinchuk said of the districtwide transition.
Recognizing that the transition may be both overwhelming and daunting to the at-home helpers, the assistant superintendent has encouraged teachers to not feel the need to send home as much math homework. In addition, video tutorials are also available by grade level (K-6) on the district website. Parent Math nights have also been scheduled. The first will be hosted for K-8 math next Wednesday, Sept. 3 at Cloverland Elementary school from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is open to parents of each elementary school as well as Oakdale Junior High.
“Our teachers in Oakdale can go toe to toe with any in the county,” Rapinchuk said, referring to her confidence in the district. “We have a very knowledgeable staff. As a result our students are going to be more confident and able to pursue STEM careers.”
For more information on upcoming events or to locate the Homework Help Site visit www.oakdale.k12.ca.us.