Taking New Common Core Math Standards to the Classroom
Warner Center Helps K-12 Schools Take on New National Standards
With New York State’s adoption of the Common Core Mathematics Standards, the Warner Center for Professional Development and Education Reform at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education has already differentiated itself by getting ahead of the curve with helping local teachers and administrators prepare for, and begin to implement, these new standards.
The standards, developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Association (NGA) in consultation with teachers, parents, experts, and school administrators from across the country, have been adopted by almost every state. The New York State Board of Education adopted the new K-12 math standards in 2010 as part of this nationwide move to help students succeed in a global economy and society. Its implementation will take place across the state by 2012-13 for kindergarten through eighth grade, with algebra and geometry at the high school level the next academic year.
The standards are based on one overarching goal: To make students college- and career-ready by the time they graduate from high school.
“What’s most exciting about the new standards is the ‘nationalness’ of this work—we are all in it together, talking the same language and working toward the same goal,” says Judi Fonzi, director of the Warner Center who also serves on a number of national committees, including Developers and Implementers in Mathematics Education (DIME), which is tied to the planning and implementation of the national standards. “The best and the brightest minds across the country are coming together to focus on the same thing. It’s going to make mathematics education so much better for kids.”
Most of the nation has embraced this set of new standards, which will impact nearly 45 million students across the country. Prior to this, each state had its own set of standards and assessments that were inconsistent.
“It’s much more complex and deeper than the previous New York State standards, which was a checklist of very small ideas focused on procedural skills,” says Cindy Callard, director of mathematics outreach in the Warner Center who also teaches middle school mathematics in the Brighton Central School District. “The Common Core is much more focused on big ideas and conceptual understanding, in addition to procedure, while making connections to the real world.”
Perseverance, problem solving, reasoning, conceptual understanding, and making connections to the real world are just some of the skills that K-12 students will master under the new Common Core Mathematics Standards. These standards will challenge students to develop both understandings as well as procedural fluency. Students also will be asked to apply this knowledge to novel situations and not just repeat a procedure that was learned.
The national focus on the Common Core Standards, explains Callard, has put an end to the ‘Math Wars’—the debate over what and how mathematics should be taught. “The Common Core emphasizes both conceptual understanding and fluency with basic facts and skills” she says.
Traditional math instruction built around memorization and repetition—still a norm in many of the nation’s schools—will get a makeover under the new Common Core Math Standards.
The Warner Center has been involved with the Common Core Standards since 2009 when the first drafts were released by the U.S. Department of Education and feedback was needed. “We have been working at multiple levels,” Callard adds. “We try to impact what’s happening nationally by providing feedback and advocating for teachers, impacting and engaging in statewide implementation, and supporting school districts on the ground locally.”
With connections at the regional, state, and national levels, the Warner Center is prepared to make the Common Core Math Standards happen in classrooms. The Center is working with multiple districts across the region to influence how teachers spend their time and resources and provide professional development for teachers and administrators to engage in and better understand the Common Core so that when they have to implement it, they have already done some of the groundwork.
Callard and other facilitators of the Warner Center are leading professional development sessions that provide support to building an understanding of Common Core content and practices as well as keeping educators informed of developments and resources available at the state and national levels. Most recently, the Warner Center developed a course called Digging Deeper Into the Mathematics of the Common Core, a full-week institute for regional K-12 teachers and administrators.
The Warner Center professional development providers continue to create new learning opportunities for K-12 teachers and administrators through the creation of new workshops that focus on the content and practices of the Common Core as well as providing in-classroom support for several local districts. The mathematics outreach division is working with the executive director of mathematics in the Rochester City School District to develop a cadre of more than 30 teacher leaders who will stay on top of the latest news and information about the Common Core and support the implementation in their district and schools. They are also reaching out regionally to partner with area BOCES by providing support for teachers as they begin to implement these new standards.
The rollout of the Common Core Math Standards coincide with the most recent results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) that show that New York fourth- and eighth-grade students fare worse on these national assessments than the rest of the country and at a time when the nation as a whole continues to fall further behind the rest of the world in math. Results from the national math exam released earlier in November illustrate that New York’s math scores fall below the national average, with only 36 percent of fourth-graders proficient in math, down from 40 percent two years ago, and 30 percent of eighth-graders proficient in math, down from 34 percent two years ago.
According to Callard and Fonzi, we can no longer do business as usual and accept the same dismal results. The new standards provide an opportunity to improve mathematics instruction for all students.
“Classrooms will need to become more engaging,” says Stephanie Martin, the mathematics outreach coordinator at the Warner Center. “Teachers will need to dig deeper into math and be able to facilitate classroom discussions—as opposed to being the one speaking all of the time—and kids will need to engage in more conversations with each other. Often times when we work with students in the classroom and approach instruction from a problem-solving and understanding perspective, students who previously disliked math now love class because they are being asked challenging questions and are encouraged to think through and answer questions on their own, rather than being told how to find the answer.”
For the past decade, the Warner Center has been helping others to think about mathematics instruction based on the research of how people learn and how to nurture this learning, as well as what it takes to engage students in a high-quality math program. The Center has the resources and prior experiences with high-quality math instruction that will help districts successfully implement the Common Core Standards. Districts that have collaborated with the Warner Center in the past will reap the benefits of having begun the foundational work because the new national standards are in line with the type of work the Center has been doing with teachers for years. Similarly, graduate students enrolled in the Warner School’s mathematics teacher education program also will be prepared to enter schools as new teachers and teach to the new national standards.
“These are national standards and they are here to stay,” adds Fonzi, “and we have a chance to do it right. This is an exciting time for mathematics instruction and we owe this to our children.”
To learn more about the Warner Center or for more information on the resources available for the new Common Core Math Standards in New York State, visit www.warner.rochester.edu/warnercenter or contact Stephanie Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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