Common Core Standards in Wicomico County
Last year, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) of mathematics were fully implemented in kindergarten and grade one. Teachers embraced not only the curricular changes but their new approach to planning as many connections must be made between Standards. New curricular progression documents were well received and continue to evolve using Moodle (an online educational tool for staff) as a way to share in real time. Benchmarks for kindergarten and first grade were also created to support the new curriculum.
One of the essential components of the Common Core is placing the burden of thinking on students through the "practices" of mathematically proficient students. All math teachers have been working to implement these eight mathematical practices into their daily lessons. As part of this initiative, secondary teachers have and will continue creating open-ended tasks which are shared using Moodle and frame these practices. Partnering with Salisbury University, teachers are also offered workshops and professional development opportunities that develop instructional strategies with the eight practices as their focus.
Looking forward, this year grade two will fully implement CCSS following the same model used for kindergarten and grade one. Like Frederick County, Wicomico is also strategically integrating CCSS into grades 3-8 where current state curriculum is combined with CCSS. By 2014, all courses will be fully aligned with the Common Core.
Message to the Community
The essence of the Common Core is to develop deep understandings for students. The Common Core contains fewer standards and this "less is more" philosophy allows teachers to spend more time to dive past the surface level of topics to develop these understandings. At the foundation of these standards are the eight "Practices" of mathematically proficient students. These "practices" define student behaviors that must be evident for understandings within the Common Core to be developed. This student-centered approach to instruction transforms the way that mathematics is taught. Students are pushed to think and figure things out for themselves with the teachers' role as that of a facilitator. Through questioning, students are challenged and the answers as well as the procedures are not always explicitly stated. Parents will notice a significant increase in applications of concepts as well as many connections being made between standards. Overall, this shift in curriculum will improve students' reasoning ability and understanding of mathematics and thus better prepare students to take upper-level mathematics courses in high school as well as college.
How Parents Can Help
Common Core Standards represent not only a shift in curriculum and instruction but also in how students learn. This shift requires that students engage in the thinking and discussions in math class and become active learners rather than passive listeners. Parents can talk with their child about perseverance which is referenced in practice 1 of the eight "practices." Students should be encouraged to not give up and pose questions when they are confused. Active participation develops these deep understandings while improving their overall reasoning and problem solving skills.
If the parent feels that their child has reached a frustration point, this should be communicated this with the child's teacher so that additional assistance can be provided.