Curriculum Q & A

  • Q: What are learning standards (AKA “The Common Core Learning Standards”)? 

    A: Learning standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.  We have always had learning standards, but they have gone by different names over the years.


    Q: What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative? 

    A: The Common Core State Standards Initiative is being led by states to establish a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics.  States, including New York, voluntarily adopted the standards.  The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four year college programs or enter the workforce.  Governors and state education leaders led the initiative. Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country, together with state leaders, provided input into the development of the standards.


    Q: Who was involved in the Common Core State Standards Initiative? 

    A: States across the country collaborated with teachers, researchers, and leading experts to design and develop the Common Core State Standards. Each state, including New York, independently made the decision to adopt the Common Core State Standards, beginning in 2010. The federal government was NOT involved in the development of the standards. Remsen School District voluntarily signed on to support New York State adopting the Common Core.


    Q: What guidance do learning standards provide to teachers? 

    A: The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.


    Q:  How do the Common Core State Standards compare to previous state standards? 

    A: The Common Core State Standards took the best and highest state standards in existence in the U.S., examined the expectations of other high performing countries around the world, and carefully studied of the research and literature available on what students need to know and be able to do to be successful in college and careers. No state in the country was asked to lower their expectations for their students in adopting the Common Core. The standards are evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and are informed by other top performing countries. They were developed in consultation with teachers and parents from across the country so they are also realistic and practical for the classroom.


    Q: Will there be tests based on the learning standards? 

    A:  Yes. States that adopted the new learning standards are currently collaborating to develop common assessments that will be aligned to the standards and replace existing end of year state assessments. These assessments will be available in the 2015-2016 school year.


    Q: Were teachers involved in the creation of the standards? 

    A:  Yes. Teachers have been an essential voice in the development of the standards.  Many teacher organizations have provided formal input into the new learning standards.


    Q: What does this work mean for students with disabilities? 

    A:  The standards include information on supporting students with disabilities.  All children will be held to higher standards, but school districts must, as always, adhere to instructional supports identified in individualized student education plans.


    Q: Why are the new learning standards for just English language arts and math? 

    A: English language arts and math were the subjects chosen for the new learning standards because they are areas upon which students build skills which are used in other subjects. They are also the subjects most frequently tested.


    Q: What do the learning standards mean for students? 

    A: They provide clarity and consistency in what is expected of student learning across the country. This initiative helps provide all students with an equal opportunity for an education, regardless of where they live.


    Q: How do learning standards impact teachers? 

    A: They impact teachers by: 

    • Providing goals to ensure students are achieving certain skills and knowledge by the end of each grade level
    • Helping colleges better prepare teachers
    • Providing the opportunity for teachers to be involved in the development of assessments linked to these standards
    • Allowing states to develop and provide better tests that more accurately measure whether or not students have learned what was taught
    • Guiding teachers toward curricula and teaching strategies that will give students a deep understanding of the subject and the skills they need to apply their knowledge.


    Q: Will common assessments be developed? 

    A: Two groups are developing common assessments, and most states have become partners in one or both of the efforts – the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).


    Q: Does the federal government play a role in standards implementation? 

    A: No.  The federal government had no role in the development of the learning standards, and will not have a role in their implementation. It is not part of No Child Left Behind and adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory.


    Q:  Are there data collection requirements associated with the learning standards? 

    A: There are no data collection requirements for states adopting the learning standards. States decide how to measure student progress in meeting standards.


    Q:  Do the English language arts standards include a reading list or any other reference to content? 

    A: They do include sample texts that may be used by schools and teachers, but they are not required.  School districts still have local control over curriculum and instruction, including what books to read.  At REMSEN we are choosing to adapt to high quality reading materials we already have a great deal of faith in, rather than scripting our lessons using “modules” or even our Envision math resources.


    Q: How has Remsen chosen to address the Common Core State Standards? 

    A: Our teachers were involved in the review and selection of instructional materials.  However, we work from fluid curriculum maps and assessments specifically designed by our teachers to be aligned with the learning standards.  Our District Instructional (which includes teachers and administrators) oversees all decisions about classes, curriculum, and instructional materials.  The Board of Education reviews recommendations made by the District Instructional Team (DIT) and votes on these recommendations. 

    Remsen teachers have been working with the new learning standards for more than two years now.  These are not new for our teachers, and they have spent hundreds of hours during the school year and over the summer becoming knowledgeable - and skilled at helping students succeed in - the learning standards called “The Common Core Learning Standards”.


    Q: What are the “Modules”? 

    A: New York State has provided schools with a sample curriculum with instructional resources that schools may elect to use.  These materials are called “Modules”.  Most schools in our area and in the State have elected to use the Modules for instruction.  Schools may, instead, select instructional programs from national publishers in order to address the Common Core State Standards.


    Q: What instructional materials did Remsen select to address the learning standards? 

    A: We have chosen to adapt ELA modules in grades 3-8, and bring in other high quality resources, too.  Already we were using an older version of Envision Math in grades K-6, and various resources for math, grades 7-12.  We have chosen to adopt the newest version of Envision Math (aligned with the learning standards) as a resource for teaching math.


    Q: Why did Remsen recommend adopting Envision Math, rather than the modules? 

    A: Modules were not completely published at the time we needed to make the decision to adopt a mathematics resource, but we needed to act – bringing our approach to teaching the new learning standards up to par.  Our scores haven’t always been strong in math (although among the highest in grades 3 and 6 on the 2012-2013 assessments regionally!), and choosing the new Envision Math program made sense.  It was complete, known to be of high quality, and was available as a sequence for learning in grades PK through 8.  We are expecting improved results in our math scores on the NYS math assessments each year.


    Q: What support do teachers have for using the learning standards in math and helping our students? 

    A: Remsen teachers have been given many hours of learning devoted to Envision Math (aligned to the learning standards – this resource is not the same thing as the “Common Core Modules”.  We will receive training in the coming months, and daily grade level team meetings help teachers to focus on what is working and what is not working.  In addition, Remsen provides supportive and supplemental math instruction to help improve student performance.


    Q: How can parents help their children at home in order to support the math instruction taking place in school?

    A: Unfortunately, the Envision Math materials do come with take home materials for children, including a strong web-based supplemental instruction resource that every family can access.  Families can see exactly what their students see in school – at home.  We understand that some of the strategies children are using may be different than what we, as adults, are familiar with.  If your child is experiencing difficulty at home, the best first step is always to contact your child’s teacher.  Your child’s teacher may provide explanations and offer suggestions.  Most importantly for helping your child succeed in school is making sure they are prepared for learning and that we all project a positive attitude about mathematics and our instructional approach.