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Curriculum committee topic: 2012-13

February 17, 2012

PLYMOUTH — Plymouth School administrators are wasting no time in making sure their students are meeting or exceeding the state standards set by the Indiana Department of Education and other states. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core States Standards
The Common Core State Standards have been formulated to provide an understanding of what students are expected to know at certain grade levels and additionally give administrators and teachers very clear guidelines to ensure that all students meet the goals. The standards have been designed to be relevant to real world situations. Students are expected to have the skills necessary at gradation to find success in college or in their chosen careers.
A task force consisting of educators and administrators from each school in the Plymouth systems along with parents who have students in the various schools met this week to be briefed on the specific goals for the next school year.
Presentations were given by Carrie Cannon, intern in the Administration Office, Michele Riise (elementary), Donna Burroughs (intermediate), Reid Gault (junior high) and Jim Condon (high school).
Cannon said, “We need to ensure that all educators are very familiar with the expectations of the new standards.”
One of the new assessment tools being put in place is the PARCC test (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). According to Cannon, the continued use of the PARCC will allow students to know if they are on track to graduate and ready for college or a career; give teachers regular results to guide learning and instruction; and inform parents of their child’s progress.
“States will have valid results that are comparable across the member states and nationally we will be able to compare benchmark scores as well.” said Cannon.
Superintendent Dan Tyree said schools will have a three-year period to reach the goal, but they are integrating steps now. “We have to increase the student’s text complexity.” he said. “We have found that the ability to read for college is the same as that needed in the workplace.”
Information gathered after the meeting from Jennifer Laurent, Marshall County Economic Development director, seems to confirm why the new emphasis on readiness is being promoted.
“Throughout the U.S.,” she said, “a significant foundational skills gap has been documented between workers and job seekers who possess an educational credential and jobs that require a similar level of education. For local manufacturing, in occupations requiring a low, middle or high level of education or training, it is reported to us that too many applicants are not able to demonstrate the required skills expected, representing a real challenge to our companies intent on growth.”
She explained, “An example would be the ability to locate, synthesize and use information from workplace graphics, such as charts, graphs, tables, forms, flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, maps and instrument gauges.  Analytical or problem-solving ability, multi-tasking responsibilities, team dynamics – these are the skills Marshall County businesses are looking for and cite as critical to emphasize in training the next generation’s workforce.”
Non-fiction will now be a larger focus than it has been in the past. Tyree said, “Non-fiction prepares kids for the complexity of math, science and statistics,” adding that he wants to encourage parents to research how the Lexile levels are set since the libraries at the schools will be getting a makeover in the way the books and materials are displayed. Complexity of written texts in the areas of purpose, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands have been identified.
Michael Dunn, Menominee principal, explained how vocabulary focus will be increased and introduced. “There are three tiers or categories,” he said. “The first is everyday sight words that we begin introducing very early. The second focuses on academic vocabulary that is used frequently in written material. Added emphasis will now be on domain content or the language used in a specialized field at the third tier.”
Dunn said, “We will pre-teach the vocabulary words, refer back to the words during lessons in all subjects, and then post-test to ensure that the words have been mastered. Students need to hear, see, speak and write words correctly,” adding that parents and others working with students at home can help children by asking questions while they read together and help identify words that are written in bold print in textbooks.

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