The Impact of COMMON CORE on YOU AND YOUR FAMILY
The state of education in Chattanooga has long been a complicated question. In a region that has historically ranked low in education and test scores, Chattanooga has placed a premium on education since Thomas Hooke McCallie brought a famous educator to the new city growing in the wilderness. Today’s Chattanooga is home to three of the most successful private schools in the country, and its magnet schools are consistently ranked among the highest-achieving public schools in the nation.
When people in Chattanooga ask where you went to school, they don’t mean college. Bumper stickers and booster shirts announce who you are and where you come from before you even get there, a school affiliation screaming out your social standing and economic status. And yet, in a city celebrated for business, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, recent ACT scores suggest that only 18 percent of Tennessee high school seniors are academically prepared for college. That sounds a lot like 82 percent of high school seniors who are not on a trajectory toward success or achievement.
Something had to change. With assistance from groups like the Public Education Foundation (PEF), teachers have translated trainings and leadership opportunities into enhanced successes in the classroom. Recently, 14 local schools were honored for posting test scores that were among the highest five percent in the state, and the new STEM high school is now serving a 9th grade class, the 10th graders leading the way in a unique setting with seemingly limitless potential for learning and exploration.
School has started for the year, and as students are heading to the classrooms, political buzzwords are packed in their backpacks and screaming “Common Core” at their parents from the headlines. Chattanooga’s Mayor Andy Berke described his philosophy for the city as “budgeting for outcomes” and challenged his staff to “not do things just because that’s how they’ve always been done,” reorganizing the system of government to allow for innovation to change the city in key areas.
Common Core takes that same approach and seeks to prepare American students to be successful in college and careers by providing clear goals for student learning instead of telling teachers how to teach.
In true Pulse form we talked to people about what they knew and what they wanted to know about education in Chattanooga, Common Core and how it will impact you and your family.
What is Common Core and where did it come from?
Historically, each state has had different standards and measurement tools. Common Core State Standards establish expectations aligned with those in colleges and careers. The consistency of standards between states allows teachers, administrators and districts to share best practices. Local teachers, principals and superintendents led the implementation of Common Core, and school districts in Tennessee have been phasing in use of the Common Core Standards for math and English language arts during the last two years. The standards are a clear set of goals establishing what students need to learn—but don’t dictate to teachers how they should teach it. Curriculum decisions and textbook choices are made locally, but the standards focus on real-world skills and critical thinking that will prepare students to succeed and compete in college and career s globally.
Common Core changes the teaching model from teachers having knowledge that they share, to a model that gives students access to information and teaches them how to find it. As PEF’s Dan Challener explains, it “flips the model of the classroom to consuming the content at night and doing work in groups with problem-based experiences” at school.
How does it impact my children in their classroom and at home?
More than 25,000 Tennessee educators enrolled in the optional trainings offered during summer 2013, and more than 2,500 school and district administrators participated in courses designed by “Leadership Coaches.” Those teachers and administrators have arrived in your schools and classrooms excited and ready to achieve new things. They’ll be communicating with you more. They’ll be challenging your children to think critically, to explore, learn and be inspired to succeed in college or career. You will see students writing more in all of their classes—not just English—and they’ll be challenged to discuss how problems are solved in math and science classes.
A group of Hamilton County teachers was awarded fellowships from the Public Education Foundation and the Texas-based Fund for Teachers, each teacher conducting 6-week explorations that relate to the lessons they’ll be teaching their students. Trey Joyner, a middle-school science teacher, went on a trek across the United States and said, "Every place we're going, every stop, is a direct connection to what we're teaching and learning in the classroom. The idea is for them to go with me, to get them excited about the lab they're about to do." Those students have already explored science, nature and biodiversity on local field trips, and he has plans for more adventures, sharing his lessons as a Leadership Fellow with teachers who learn from those explorations.
Be sure to sign up for the online email, text and contact programs for your child’s class. You’ll see your children reading more at night and using the Internet to conduct research that they will use in the classroom activities. Students will be reading more nonfiction, exploring complex texts and engaging in problem-based learning and critical thinking. If Internet access is an obstacle for your family, Comcast offers programs with reduced rates and a discounted computer.
Is there new testing that will go with the new standards?
Yes, Tennessee students will be using the PARCC (Partnership for Readiness for College and Careers) assessment tool. PARCC is a measurement tool designed to be administered online and will begin during the 2014-2015 school year. This will replace the TCAP tests for math and English language arts.
Assessing students online allows for a reflection of the expectations for college and career and can more authentically assess student performances. Online testing allows for a faster return on information, and enables teachers and administrators to make modifications in the classroom to enhance success.
Are there new resources for me and for my children?
Chattanooga’s Youth and Family Development Centers have Lexia, a new computer-based literacy program available in 13 centers, with 16 expected to be operational by this winter. This effort, led by “Coach” Lurone Jennings, administrator of the new Department of Youth and Family Development, will serve Chattanoogans from pre-K to adult, preparing students to achieve more in school and giving adults access to programs designed to increase career readiness. The Lexia Literacy program will help fill in the gap for literacy learning through extended time in after-school programming. Lexia will bridge children’s interest in technology, providing a structural and productive use of reading through technology, while having fun and coexisting with numerous recreation programs.
The Chattanooga Public Library and the 4th Floor continue to provide innovative programs and services for Chattanooga’s families, encouraging teens to explore technology and learning in ways that can open doors for their future goals and successes.
WTCI, Chattanooga’s community PBS station, offers a wide variety of resources, activities and programs that support families and inspire a lifetime of learning and exploration. PBS LearningMedia.org is the go-to destination for instant access to tens of thousands of classroom-ready, digital resources, including videos, games, audio clips, photos and lesson plans. You can search, save, and share with ease. PBS LearningMedia is free for educators. PBS has been working with the Department of Education and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to implement the Ready to Learn activities that support learning and achievement goals for at-risk children from 2-8.
A wealth of games, apps and digital resources are available free online, and WTCI provides events, activities, outreach and resources for local families and teachers. Professional development opportunities for teachers, a Media Lab, TNCode Academy workshops and summer classes and Exploration Wednesday camps for children are just a few of the free programs and resources that help support the goals of Common Core Standards for Chattanooga families.