Students will be expected to perform two years beyond their grade level, while instructors of all subjects will double as literacy teachers to ensure that students fully grasp lessons that are being taught.
According to engageNY.org, an initiative of the New York State Education Department, the Common Core standards are guidelines that are aligned from grade to grade in order to link lessons from preschool to senior year. The aim is to prepare students to enter college and the workforce.
New York adopted the Common Core curriculum in English language arts and math in 2011, joining 45 other states and the District of Columbia. Regents exams also will reflect the Common Core curriculum beginning next year.
Depew began adapting the standards into its programs in 2011, said Frey, who noted that the English guidelines focus on critical reading, vocabulary and skills in writing, speaking and listening.
For math, algebra will shift to eighth grade, more statistics and probability will be stressed in high school, and students will be expected to learn deeper math concepts rather than memorization of tables and formulas at all grade levels.
The keys to success will be regular professional development, districtwide literacy programs, curriculum alignment across all grades, writing in all content areas, student engagement, assessments and interventions when students fall behind, Frey said.
“It’s not about teaching to the test,” she said. “It really is about organizational change.”
Another change facing students is the way their reading skills will be ranked. The Lexile Framework for Reading will score students’ skills from 0 to 2,000 to evaluate how complex a text will be for them to comprehend. Schools will be expected to hit certain levels, including 790 for third grade, 1155 for eighth grade and 1355 for 12th. The reading levels have been shifted for each grade, requiring students to reach proficiency at an earlier age. Past targets were 725 for third grade, 955 for eighth and 1220 for 12th.
While the new benchmarks may seem daunting, Depew High School Principal Carol Townsend said that 77 percent of ninth-graders and 82 percent of 10th-graders tested at or above reading level and are on track to reach a 1350 score by the end of 11th grade.
Evidence of the effectiveness of the new Common Core measures has been seen at Cayuga Heights Elementary School. In September, fewer than half of second- and third-graders were performing at grade level in ELA and math, Principal Michelle Kudla said. Teachers in these grades were asked to focus on aligning lessons and assessing the need for deeper instruction, and by May, the numbers had risen, with more than half performing above grade level.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Kudla said.
At the middle school, the focus is on building vocabulary, developing critical thinking skills and shifting from a reactive to a proactive approach to behavior, social and academic concerns, Principal Joseph D’Amato said.
The end result, according to Frey, is to ensure that all students successfully reach graduation and are prepared to enter college and careers. She highlighted the district graduation rate increase to 84 percent in 2011-12 from 76 percent the previous year as an example of how the district continues to improve. She stressed, however, that the progress starts from the time a child begins his or her academic career, and the Common Core Learning Standards emphasize this philosophy.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the board accepted a $19,000 donation from the Cayuga Heights Parent Teacher Organization to purchase a digital sign to be placed outside the school to improve the appearance of the grounds and advertise upcoming events.