Schools incorporate new standards into instruction
Lisa Hendrix tosses a ball as part of a discusssion of how 'Paul Revere's Ride' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow differs from historical accounts. | Kevin Tanaka for~Sun-Times Media.
Updated: November 5, 2012 6:25AM
OAK PARK — Oak Park and River Forest teachers have adopted new math and language arts common core standards in their classrooms this year.
The standards were developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association for Best Practices. All but five states – Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia and Alaska – have signed on.
The Common Core standards deal with math and English, though educators are upgrading standards in other subject areas. This is the first update in learning standards in Illinois since 1997, according to the Illinois State Board of Education website.
A new test, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is being developed. It’s tentatively scheduled for the 2014-2015 school year, Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Fergus said.
The Illinois State Board of Education adopted the standards and is supplying professional development assistance to educators. But it’s up to individual school districts to adjust their curriculum and teaching.
This past summer, Districts 90 and 97 held a teacher leader summit to help staff better understand common core standards, District 97 Policy, Planning and Communications Director Chris Jasculca said. Teacher leaders were designated to help put standards in place, Jasculca said.
As a result, Brooks Middle School language arts teacher Lisa Hendrix has implemented stronger problem solving skills into her classroom.
“The goal is for students to pull different things from different subjects and relate them to each other,” Hendrix said.
For example, students are reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Hendrix will tie issues from the story to social justice and political questions raised in a history class.
Hendrix has also started using more non-fiction works.
“Some students are finding the increased non-fiction rough,” Hendrix said. “It’s a transition period.”
Kelly Casaccio, Laurie Hendrickson and Kathryn Locigno teach reading and writing at Roosevelt Middle School in three adjoining semi-open classrooms in River Forest. They refer to their space as “the collaborative classroom.”
All three have incorporated the new standards into the sixth-grade literacy curriculum and grading practices. The two main changes involve teaching argument writing and teacher grading practices, they said. The standards require teachers teach argument instead of persuasive writing.
“The biggest change for us, however, is how we assess student work,” they said in a written statement.
According to the standards, skill development occurs in a spiral curriculum, with one grade building upon the next.
“Therefore, we found it necessary to put the skills expected at each grade level into a longitudinal chart in order to see at a glance the growth of our students,” they wrote.
Oak Park-River Forest math teacher Mark Pappalardo has done extensive work with the new math standards and aligning those to the curriculum, District 200 Communications and Community Relations Director Karin Sullivan said.
“The standards are meant as a way to align kindergarten through high school math students across the states,” Pappalardo said.
For mathematics, eight key standards have been put in place.
Pappalardo believes the first, “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them,” focuses on concepts and applying those in a problem-solving manner.
Students are also using projects to better understand math skills in his classroom,.
“So far, the student response has been favorable,” Pappalardo said. “It’ll take time for both the students and teachers to better understand the expectations.”
District 97 Middle School Curriculum Coordinator Lisa Schwartz said summit leaders plan to meet throughout the year to continue breaking down the new standards.
Staff Writer Mark Lawton contributed to this report