Public schools unite under one set of standards

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Common Core State Standards affect the entire nation. Photo taken <br /><figcaption id=Photo taken by: Asia Acevedo

Public schools across America are experiencing an era of change. Since 2010, 46 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a set of educational guidelines designed to ensure that students at each grade level learn similar material and acquire the same classroom skills. Common Core changes have been affecting schools all around New York, beginning when the New York State Board of Regents opted to use the standards in January 2011. Though Townsend Harris has been incorporating the CCSS for the past two years, this year will see an increased focus on the implementation of the new standards.

Humanities Assistant Principal Rafal Olechowski said that THHS is ahead of most other schools, since it started early. Two years ago students completed a project under the Common Core, and last year’s teachers aligned at least one unit to the standards. This year, the plan is to have all lessons in all subjects following the CCSS.

“It is difficult not to use CommonCore, since most teacher lesson plans include the principles. Also, any content can be adjusted to fit the common core,” commented Mr. Olechowski.

Some teachers will have to adjust their lesson plans, but others are not experiencing any changes so far. English teacher Joseph Canzoneri, said, “Most of what we do in AP English is higher level, so we meet the criteria. Now, there is a greater emphasis on non-fiction writing, but I’ve always done that with my students so at least for now changes have been minimal.” He believes that it will take a year or two before any major changes become noticeable.

Other teachers are seeing the changes, and think that they are beneficial to students. Biology teacher Sarah Oberlander is now planning to include weekly science articles into her curriculum. “The goal is to have students become more science literate and be critical thinkers. This starts with students practicing reading, analyzing, and forming their own opinions,” she said.

Ms. Oberlander hopes that this will force students to not just memorize facts, but analyze the readings and actually learn from them.

Principal Anthony Barbetta explained that Townsend Harris is not seeing many changes yet because the school meets most of the requirements.

“We are now just waiting to see what the exams will look like. That is where we might need to make some changes later, because teachers will need to adjust to the tests and standards. Our curriculum will remain the same, we might just slightly need to adjust,” explained Mr. Barbetta.

States around the country will release new tests that meet the criteria of CCSS within the next fews years. As of now, it appears that they will not replace the Regents in New York State, and students will take both tests. However, there is nothing that is decided yet, and the only thing that students and teachers can do is wait.

Most states approved the standards because it is supposed to eliminate the possibility of students on the West Coast learning something different from students in the Midwest or the East Coast. Since teachers all over the country will have the same guidelines to follow, hypothetically, no student should feel unprepared or at a disadvantage once they get to college or into their selected careers.

Something new that the standards will apply is a less-is-more approach, where students will cover fewer topics in the year, but will learn them more in depth. This new method will apply to all subjects – not just English – because the idea is that students should be able to take information from one class and understand it enough to use it in another.