Common Core Training Kicks Off for Teachers

Thursday, August 08, 2013 - 04:05 PM

Elementary school teachers attend a summer training on a new English language arts curriculum developed by Pearson. (Yasmeen Khan)

At the same time that city teachers are absorbing the results of new state tests, they are also receiving training on brand new curriculum materials that, some teachers say, would have been quite useful in the classroom had they arrived before their students were assessed in April.

"It's a learning curve more than anything," said José Vilson, a math teacher at I.S. 52 in Inwood, who also actively blogs about education. It would have been better, he said, to fully implement the more demanding Common Core standards into teaching practice before assessing students.

Now, months after the tests, thousands of teachers are attending summer training sessions on new math and English curricula developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson and Scholastic that are aligned to the Common Core learning standards. More training will be offered after the start of the new school year.

The city's Department of Education announced in February that it was recommending new curricula, and schools had the option of ordering them or state approved curricula before the end of June. Education officials said 87 percent of regular district schools ordered these new materials. Schools could also choose other publishers, or stick with what they have and add supplements.

(The city does not track whether or not charter schools opted for the approved new curricula, because they don't order them through D.O.E.)

The materials are just becoming available now and being shipped to schools or posted online, and more will continue to trickle in after September.

But it's not as if schools are replacing all of their books. For example, officials said a popular staple such as Charlotte's Web will remain in the city-approved English curriculum, but it will be read aloud to second graders. Currently, many teachers use this book in fourth or fifth grade when kids can read it alone. By using it earlier, the idea is to expose children to longer texts and to more vocabulary words at an earlier age. 

The city and state posted numerous resources online for teachers last year so they could plan lessons and work in teams to map out their own curricula. But culling these resources took time, with many teachers working long hours after school or on the weekends.

The new materials provide a more structured guide for the key concepts of the Common Core: advanced reading and vocabulary, analysis and critical thinking skills. In math, students will delve more deeply into concepts, and spend more time in topic areas. Depending on the grade, students may only have a few math units for the entire school year instead of several.

The materials also offer guidance to teachers on pacing lessons, prompting small group work or offering interventions for students below or above grade level.

"I think that ReadyGen is teacher-friendly, finally," said Jackie Warren, referring to the new English language arts curriculum by Pearson. Warren, a third-grade teacher at P.S. 21 Crispus Attucks, attended a training session earlier this week. She added that she liked how the curriculum emphasized the teacher's role as "facilitator" rather than "lecturer."

"The 'teacher as facilitator' allows the children to develop questions, allows them to think about vocabulary, allows them to break away from being dependent on the teachers," she explained.

For many educators, the concepts of the Common Core are already integrated into their teaching practice. Some schools also prefer to chart  their own curriculum based on the mission of the school and its student population.

But now, schools across the city may at least have a common language, said Amy Andino-Flohr, principal of the Academy of Public Relations in the Bronx.

"I think the only thing that's going to ultimately push student achievement is getting kids to school and being engaging," she said. "And if you can't do that, regardless of how great a program is, I don't think student achievement is really going to increase."


Matthew Schuerman


Comments [4]


Race to the Top served as a Trojan horse for host of corporations, like Pearson, Gates Foundation to make huge profits.Pearson created Common Core. Public education is now an industry to make huge profits. There is no money to be made off of well-performing schools!Huge money will be made from poor low-performing schools and keep them low-performing so they can be closed. Then, they will be reopened and changed into a For-Profit charter schools. These companies and corporations like Pearson know they cannot push their Common Coreand testing regimen b---sh-t on Finland, South Korea,Japan, Switzerland Canada, or other countries because they know that Washington is corrupt and greedy! Parents of children in public education wake up. Your children are being used as guinea pigs and make these corporations richer!

Aug. 12 2013 01:24 PM
David Hochheiser from Bronx

Without getting too deep into the debate, which is bottomless, I want to point out some major concerns: 1) The acquisition of the materials is being left up to individual schools, meaning that those that are best funded, most prepared and most knowledgeable will be getting another leg up. 2) This is essentially NYC DOE and NYS sanctioning big testing, big textbook, and other corporations by approving their curriculum. Read: "You don't have the time and resources to do this on your own, so we'll farm it out to Pearson, etc, whom I believe was the source of major distress this spring with their test. Accountability? 3) The Common Core is not a curriculum. There may be curricula that helps students reach the standards, but we need to careful with the lexicon. 4) This whole mess is going prime time in the high schools this year. Why didn't anyone learn from the 3-8 lesson and hold off until more curriculum materials were ready. As of May, the DOE had nothing approved for high school Common Core standards, including curriculum designed by Coleman's own College Board.

Aug. 09 2013 09:09 AM
Katie Lapham from Brooklyn

I wish to clarify. Some of the reading passages (mix of fiction and non-fiction) are indeed connected, particularly with regards to the comprehension questions, but they aren't tied into a larger unit of study that's meaningful and relevant to students. Like the ELA state exam, ReadyGEN is comprised of random reading passages.

Aug. 09 2013 08:33 AM
Katie Lapham from Brooklyn

I have reviewed Pearson's ReadyGEN Common Core ELA curriculum. From the material I've seen so far for the testing grades (3-5), ReadyGEN is test prep for the Common Core ELA state assessments. It is not a meaningful curriculum, nor are the reading passages and questions all that inspiring. Students will learn test prep strategies, but they will not acquire much real life knowledge.

ReadyGEN contains a mix of disconnected fiction and non-fiction reading passages (mirroring the ELA state exam) followed by extended response questions (as opposed to multiple choice). I found some of the questions to be confusing and irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. Also, it can be argued that grammar should not be taught explicitly to students until grade 5. The grammar section of ReadyGEN is not properly contextualized. For example, 4th graders are asked: What is a dependent clause in a complex sentence? What is an independent clause in a complex sentence? English language learners, particularly newcomers with 1-3 years in the system, will struggle with this material.

-Katie Lapham, elementary ESL teacher

Aug. 09 2013 07:52 AM

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