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Common Core State [sic] Standards

 

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    Kindergarten lessons intensify under newly adopted Common Core State Standards
    Ohanian Comment: Note the party line: The Common Core was a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. In truth, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in to this effort. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers acted as errand boys.

    The cheerful acceptance of the burial of child-appropriate kindergarten values just leaves me too sad to comment.


    by Venita Jenkins

    Alicia Knudsen began the day's lesson with her pupils, dissecting words by sound.

    The children tapped each sound with their fingers and then said the word. Knudsen then moved to the next exercise: substituting the first letter of a word to create a new one.

    "Air high five," Knudsen said after the students successfully completed the exercises.

    This type of activity was once seen in first-grade classrooms in Cumberland County schools.

    But Knudsen's class at Stedman Primary School is filled with kindergartners, and these kinds of more advanced lessons are typical for her young pupils.

    "Before, kindergarten was play time. You took your mat and took a nap after lunch," said Deborah Faircloth, principal of Stedman Primary School. "Now, kindergarten is very academic. The teachers make it fun, but it's very academic."

    Kindergarten classes throughout the state are more rigorous this year because of new Common Core State Standards in mathematics and language arts that went into effect this academic year.

    Common Core outlines knowledge and skills that students should master from kindergarten through 12th grade. The goal is to prepare the students for college or the workforce and to ensure they're globally competitive.

    North Carolina is among the more than 40 states that adopted the standards that were developed by teachers, school administrators, business leaders and experts from across the country. The Common Core was a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

    "It was almost like a call for action for higher standards," said Allison Violette, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Cumberland County schools.

    '21st century' learning

    While students in middle and high schools and even some elementary grades are used to standardized curriculum and tests, the implementation is especially noticeable in kindergarten.

    The kindergarten curriculum creates a foundation for the students' future success, Knudsen said.

    "The rigor of the curriculum is incredible," she said. "The standards are higher, but the students are able to meet those standards."

    Students are doing more problem solving and are exhibiting more critical thinking skills compared with the previous academic year, Faircloth said.

    "That is a part of being a 21st century learner," she said. "I think the standards will make the children more competitive with other countries."

    For example, kindergartners are expected to learn how numbers correspond to quantities.

    Students no longer focus on learning a letter a week. They are learning how to put sounds together to make words and how to put words together to make sentences. Technology is integrated throughout the standards.

    "The expectation now for what our children know and will be able to do when they leave us as high school graduates is totally different," said Jane Barnes, executive director of secondary education for Cumberland County schools. "The world has shifted, and we are catching up."

    Some kindergarten students come to the system already capable of reading and are technology savvy, she said. They've been exposed to their parents' smartphones and iPads and their siblings' laptop computers.

    "They have been immersed in multimedia since birth, and our schools are having to adjust to the world that they are already accustomed to," she said. "I think the new curriculum fits right in with all of these changes.

    "We have heard business and industry outside of education comment about what our children cannot do," she said. "I think this is a real legitimate stab at trying to give them the tools that they need. We have underestimated what our children should be able to learn and do."

    Jamie George's son, Holden, is a student in Knudsen's class. She is pleased that teachers are able to dig deeper into the objectives, she said.

    "The challenging curriculum has not affected him, but I see where some kids have struggled," she said.

    Students have to recognize 100 words before the end of the academic year compared with 40 words last year, she said. Some of the words are at a first-grade level.

    George said she remembers when kindergarten was about social play and interacting with peers.

    "As a parent, that is the sad part," she said. "They don't have time to just play and be kids."

    Teachers still try to make the rigorous lessons fun for students through crafts and other activities, she said.

    Barnes and Violette agree that the standards will transform education.

    "It's going to be empowering," Violette said, "when you think about the type of students we will be able to have."



    _

    — Venita Jenkins
    The Fayetteville Observer
    January 07, 2013


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