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KCSD prepping teachers for Common Core

Posted: February 6, 2014 5:09 p.m.
Updated: February 7, 2014 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) is helping teachers get ready for implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. KCSD Executive Director for K-12 Instruction Tim Hopkins and KCSD Common Core Transition Specialist Lisa Carter updated the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees on the district’s work to prepare for next year’s Common Core implementation at Tuesday’s school board meeting. Hopkins and Carter focused on how teachers would be adequately prepared with both training and resources to implement the standards.

In December, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said he brought the board “sort of an overview from a philosophical standpoint” of the common core standards. Tuesday, Morgan said he wanted to provide the board with “an idea of what we’ve been doing with teachers for the last 24 months” to get them ready for the implementation of the standards. He also said he wanted the board to see what type of resources would be available to teachers to use throughout the implementation.

Hopkins said district teachers have been “real troopers” throughout the two-year transition.

“We work around formative assessment,” Carter said of district administrators. “Some people ask why formative assessment? Well, you have to know where you’re going before you can go there.”

She described formative assessment as a way for teachers and administrators to familiarize themselves with the standards -- their rigor, complexity and expectations -- and create formative assessment questions based on that knowledge.

Carter said that throughout the months of September, October and November, she visited every elementary, middle and high school in the district and covered the following topics with teachers:

• Formative assessment

• Writing Across Curriculum

• Integrating Technology Across Curriculum

• Text Complexity

• Deconstructing Standards

• Webb’s Depth of Knowledge

Carter explained that “Webb’s Depth of Knowledge” has been adopted and integrated into the core standards rather than a previous classification of learning objectives called Bloom’s Taxonomy because it creates a “deeper” understanding of subjects for students.

Carter also said deconstructing the standards offered a breakdown of the standards for teachers, because “the standards are very broad … we look at what are the underlying objectives the teachers need to instruct students in order to reach the standard, the end result. Common core standards are meant to be the end. At the 180th day, that is where our students will be … standards are meant to be built upon all year so they can reach that end result.”

Carter said elementary teachers indicated via survey that they wanted “units, lesson plans, resources to be in one place so that they can, with confidence, implement the common core.” She said middle and high school teachers were looking at “their syllabus and how to align the syllabus with common core standards.”

She said she would also be working with high school teachers to integrate the core standards into their coursework “so that the teachers still have that confidence that their students are prepared for EOC (end of course) testing.”

Carter will be leading one-hour sessions after school every Thursday in February and March to show teachers what resources are available online to help with standard implementation. She said that during the summer, she would be offering a week-long planning session.

“It’s voluntary,” Carter said, “and teachers will actually earn 30 recertification hours which is half of what they need every five years.”

Carter then presented the various Common Core Standard resources she has shared with teachers, including Edmodo which contains articles, sites, videos and other states resources (www.edmodo.com); Symbaloo which is accessible for teachers and parents (www.symbaloo.com\mix\commoncorespecialist); Problem Based Learning (PBL)/Teacher Toolbox, which houses pacing guides, common formative assessment question banks and unit and lesson planning sharing access (www.pblproject.com); podcasts which discuss standards (http://lisacarter.podbean.com/); and parent guides made accessible on the district’s website.

Carter then provided a virtual tour of the PBL site to show the board all of the available resources it has for teachers. She said one facet of the PBL site allows students to take a test and for teachers to watch as the test is scored immediately. She said this was beneficial so that if a teacher noticed many students missing the same type of question, it “would tell them right away, and they can adjust their instruction because the students are misunderstanding something. That’s formative assessment.” The site will alleviate the stress of trying to catch up students who miss school because students will be able to access it at home.

Carter ended by noting that another benefit of the PBL site is that teachers can add any resource to the site and have all resources stored together so that they aren’t wasting time closing out of programs and navigating to various sites. The PBL site can incorporate the preexisting resources teachers have along with new resources, Carter said.

Hopkins said a critical aspect of Common Core Standards is ensuring that a student is college and/or career ready when they graduate.

“They take that talent, that skill, into a career or a place of higher learning. That’s what this move is all about,” he said.

Answering a question from the board, Hopkins said that adjustments will be made throughout the process. He also clarified that because Common Core implementation is “directly connected to a revenue stream,” there was no option of not adopting them.

Morgan said that although Common Core was created to match federal college and career-ready guidelines, there are stated that have decided to create their own standards.

“Frankly they are up to their ears trying to figure out how to do this because it’s such a complicated process,” he said.

He also said that if a state does not have such standards in place on year after the required implementation date, the state would lose federal funding.

“Common Core is an endpoint,” Morgan said. “How you get there and how you teach it is up to you … it is a set of end points, not teaching methods. It doesn’t mandate materials.”

He said teachers would be provided resources quickly so that “they can take them and adjust them and it won’t be like they’re starting from scratch.”

In other business, the board:

• heard a facilities and finance update from KCSD Chief Financial Officer Donnie Wilson;

• heard a report from Morgan on proposed legislation under consideration by the South Carolina General Assembly that would allow any school district through referendum to levee a 1 cent sales tax for capital construction projects “regardless of the amount of money collected through accommodations taxes.” Morgan added that, if passed, the legislation would impact Phase 2 of the district’s facilities equalization project; and

• heard an update from Morgan and KCSD Executive Director for Operations Billy Smith on Phase 2 options for the North Central area of the district.

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