Vernon Hills, other pupils focus more on core
Jared Reardon's math class at Middle School North review for an upcoming test. Curriculum coordinators are grappling with new state common core standards, which affect subject areas like math. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 12, 2012 3:26PM
VERNON HILLS — The latest state learning standards will help to better prepare students for college, some local school administrators said.
Adopted from the National Governors Association for Best Practice, the Illinois State Board of Education’s new common core learning standards aim to align schools across the country with what is being taught and better prepare students for college, said Al Fleming, associate superintendent for Community High School District 128.
“Prior to this, each state had its own standards. (Common core is) going to provide consistency when you go to college,” Fleming said. “Across the country there’ll be some agreement with what students learn.”
So far, all but Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia and Alaska have approved common core standards for their state’s public schools, according to the ISBE website.
The biggest differences with the new standards are that fewer topics will be covered in math — with the aim being a deeper understanding of those topics — and greater content knowledge in language arts, with an emphasis on higher level thinking, school officials said.
“We’re emphasizing skills over content,” Fleming said, adding the district is aligning exams at its two high schools to correlate with the new curriculum.
A Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is being developed and is scheduled to be administered to students in the 2014-15 school year to assess the effectiveness of the new standards.
In Hawthorn School District 73, teachers are rewriting assessments and lessons to meet the new standards, said Lisa Cerauli, director of teaching and learning for the district.
“There’s a big focus in the new standards of teaching math through multiple modes,” she said, adding more manipulatives are being used.
And in language arts, the focus is on addressing different reading levels with more nonfiction material, integrating more science and social science, she said.
“The focus is on getting kids independent, which is a good one,” she said.
Having students across the country learning the same things is “a really good thing,” Cerauli said.
“We have a lot of movement in our district and have kids coming in from all over (the country,” she said.
Under the new standards, students will have stronger skills to go on to college, she agreed.
“You start with the end in mind and build from there,” Cerauli said. “You start at the university level and ask ‘What are our kids lacking in?’ They did look ahead to college and the workplace.”
District 73 began changing toward the new standards last school year, with new standards in language arts already incorporated for kindergarten through eighth grade and in math for kindergarten through sixth grade.
Although there is a lot of planning involved to incorporate the changes, “teachers are feeling less pressure because it’s less content they have to cover, they can just go deeper (into the topics),” Cerauli said.
This is the first update in learning standards in Illinois since 1997, according to the ISBE website.
Pioneer Press staff writer Mark Lawton contributed to this article.