Common Core Confidence Rising In County Schools

Common Core Confidence Rising In County Schools
Common Core

SNOW HILL — Like many parents, Devanna Young had a harder time with Common Core math than her third grade daughter did.

“When I first saw it, I was very frustrated because that’s not how I learned math, so I said to my daughter, I don’t think I can help you because they don’t want me to answer in the way I was taught,” Young said.

That frustration intensified because she felt like the student rather than the parent when they did homework together.

“For a while, it felt like she was teaching me,” she said. “The answers come out the same, but the way to get there … I learned it completely different.”

Young’s feelings have been mirrored by many parents since the implementation of the Common Core curriculum, but that frustration has perhaps been underscored in a national debate that became quite politicized questioning everything from the rigorous requirements of Common Core to the somewhat abstract way students are asked to solve problems under the new standards.

But last week, Young and a handful of other parents sat in their kids’ third grade classroom at Snow Hill Elementary School and worked with the teacher and their children to better understand what the new standards are asking of their children, and thusly, enable the parents to be of more help with homework.

“It is really interesting to see how they come to the same answer in a different way,” said Young. “Change is hard but it’s been good for my daughter.  She gets math much better now, and if you look around, the kids are really involved.”

But being involved and comprehending the lessons are two different things. Nationwide, some states are dropping the Common Core curriculum after the results from last spring’s first round of testing came back below par. English/Language Arts scores dropped, as did math scores when compared to the previous year’s marks nationwide.

But, proponents say it’s unfair to gauge the results of the two years together since they were using two different sets of standards.

Either way, despite the national debate, the reality is that everyone had to adjust to these new standards, including teachers.

“When we first started, it was a bit intimidating because the verbiage was different,” said Snow Hill Elementary third grade teacher Angela Nock, “but as we started to unroll and have become imbedded in the curriculum and see how they work with the kids, it became, to me, common sense. This is how you do math in your life.”

Angie McCracken, Snow Hill’s Interim Curriculum Research Teacher and Title 1 specialist, says inviting parents to the classroom has been just as valuable as time has for teachers and students to adjust to the new set of standards.

“I think now there is a foundation that we’ve built at each grade level with this curriculum,” said McCracken. “Each year, we are building upon skills, let’s say, about fractions, each year until graduation, whereas before, they were learning skills in isolation. If you think about it, we are preparing these kids to work in jobs that don’t even exist yet.”

Another point that has been lost in the common core debate is that the standards were actually back-mapped.

“They knew that they wanted kids to be college and career ready rather than just being proficient, said McCracken, “so they created the standards from the finish line and worked backwards.”

McCracken says that once parents start to understand why their children are being asked to find multiple ways to get an answer and more importantly, be able to use the skill in a real life application, the perception and the opinion about the curriculum usually changes.

Angela Nock says the key is to get kids thinking, talking and comprehending math in a different way.

“I’m seeing kids doing math now, that five years ago, I never thought kids this age would be able to do,” said Nock. “No parent wants to mess their kid up, but once they come in, understand it, and see that their child is doing well, all that fear and uncertainty simmers down quite a bit.”

McCracken believes the program has been helpful to parents across all grade levels.

“We have had a ton of parent participation in the lower grades, and as time goes on, people are starting to feel better about the fact that we are asking more of the kids,” she said. “The parents feel that they know how to help the kids with their homework, and the teachers are feeling more confident with the curriculum as a whole. Kids are resilient, and they are excited to learn.”

That fact is apparent when you look around the classroom at Snow Hill Elementary school. Devanna Young and her daughter are smiling and working together alongside other parents and their children.

“Math has become the students’ favorite class now,” said Nock. “They get upset if we aren’t doing math, and to be honest, it didn’t used to be that way at all.”

About The Author: Bryan Russo

Bryan Russo returned to The Dispatch in 2015 to serve as News Editor after working as a staff writer from 2007-2010 covering the Ocean City news beat. In between, Russo worked as the Coastal Reporter for NPR-member station WAMU 88.5FM in Washington DC and WRAU 88.3 FM on the Delmarva Peninsula. He was the host of a weekly multi-award winning public affairs show “Coastal Connection.” During his five years in public radio, Russo’s work won 19 Associated Press Awards and 2 Edward R. Murrow Awards and was heard on various national programs like NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition, APM’s Marketplace and the BBC. Russo also worked for the Associated Press (Philadelphia Bureau) covering the NHL and the NBA and is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter and composer.