“New” may be a buzzword this year as the Liberty County School System completes construction and embraces new technology, but the biggest change is in curriculum.
Liberty County schools will begin to implement the Common Core State Standards Initiative this year. As such, it will serve as a transition year, according to system curriculum Director Sandy Jones.
Common Core is a national initiative designed to ensure that the same standards are taught in every state, Jones said. Although multi-state, the program is not a federal mandate and there are no federal funds involved.
“The Common Core initiative was launched to provide coherence and consistency between states regarding what students should know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready and globally competitive,” Jones said.
With Common Core comes “project-based, student-centered, technology-driven learning that will focus more on the application of knowledge rather than just memorization,” Jones said. Because Common Core will make the requirements more transparent for students to be college and career ready, college remedial classes should become a thing of the past.
To be college and career ready means that each student will have the reading, writing, speaking, listening and language-development skills needed to succeed after high school, Jones said.
Since the Georgia Board of Education adopted Common Core on June 8, 2010, teachers have been introduced to the intricacies of the initiative through webinars and professional learning sessions.
In Liberty County, Common Core initially will be implemented at all grade levels in math and English language arts classes. It will be rolled out soon afterward in science and social studies, with the goal of every subject’s curriculum being designed according to Common Core standards, Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer said.
The standards are a higher order of learning that focus more on synthesis and open-ended responses than on repetition and memorization, Scherer said. For example, students may be asked to read a graph and write a paragraph about what it means, read and analyze an article, read a story and find the multiplication in it, or learn what it means to be a “green” product.
With Common Core, students essentially will “be singing from the same song book,” Scherer said.
This is especially important to the Liberty County School System because a large number of its student body is military and moves quite frequently, Jones said. “Their playing field will be more level because the skills they learned in Georgia will be the same as in other states.”
Common Core was spearheaded by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, ACHIEVE, the College Board and the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Georgia officials involved in the program’s inception include former Gov. Sonny Perdue, current state school board superintendent Dr. John D. Barge and former state school board superintendent Kathy Cox, Jones said.
In addition, “more than 60 large companies such as IBM and Dell have been at the table for much of the Common Core discussions and have endorsed the standards as well, which is very exciting for students, teachers and parents,” Jones said.
Although Common Core is a set of standards that every student should master, each state is able to add 15 percent of its own standards, such as Georgia history for Georgia, Jones said.
Many of the Common Core standards already were embedded into the Georgia Performance Standards, which were implemented in Georgia schools in 2004, Jones said.
However, Scherer said teachers and administrators have spent hours “deconstructing” the Common Core standards, identifying how students will master the concepts and aligning them with Georgia Performance Standards.
Administrative support for teachers in implementing Common Core is expected to continue throughout the year with collaborative sessions and on-site support, such as professional learning communities and classroom feedback, as needed.