Common Core impacts curriculum

Common Core standards in math and English language arts impact school curriculum this year

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By Photo by Kelly Gothard

Freshman Alea Ashford works out a problem in her Integrated Math I textbook as opposed to on a separate sheet of paper, a new way of learning implemented by Common Core. “Common Core is not as fast-paced as the previous curriculum and it is not as in-depth” Ashford said.

Common Core standards have recently been adopted in the state of Kansas, thus changing the curriculum at Mill Valley.

Common Core is a set of goals created to prepare students for college and their future career. The standards are more rigorous than previous curriculum, and specifically aim to increase skills in math and English language arts (ELA). According to a recent survey by the JagWire, 24.8 percent of students could define Common Core.

Kansas adopted the standards in August 2010. The Kansas state legislature attempted to block the standards on multiple occasions, but failed. Despite this, schools across the state have been changing their curriculum to comply with the standards.

Communication arts teacher Ashley Agre said the standards have prompted her to make additions to her lessons.

“Right now, the biggest change I’ve made is adding more nonfiction,” Agre said. “I’ve added in units that are based  around nonfiction and classified readings.”

Math teacher Amy Welzenbach said the standards allow for more student participation.

“Common Core lends itself to more opportunities for students to work together and for the teacher to step back,” Welzenbach said.

The most visible changes so far have been to the math program. This year, most freshmen are taking Integrated Math I, which combines Algebra and Geometry concepts. Next year, Integrated Math II will be added, followed by Integrated Math III for the 2015-2016 school year.

Freshman Kathy Nguyen thinks the class is an improvement over previous math courses.

“It’s better than other math classes I’ve taken,” Nguyen said. “Before it was random numbers, but in Integrated Math it’s situations you could imagine yourself in.”

Welzenbach also prefers the new course.

“I like [Integrated Math] because it allows us to explore concepts more deeply and allows students to process at higher levels of thinking,” Welzenbach said.

Math is not the only subject that has been affected. All classes are now required to incorporate reading, writing, speaking and listening into daily activities as a part of new initiatives for ELA standards.

Social studies teacher Dustin Stinnett said the initiatives are a good addition to classes.

“I think it’s effective education in its truest form,” Stinnett said. “Any teacher who’s going to be successful in reaching students should require reading, writing, speaking and listening.”

However, junior Benjamin Kelm thinks these initiatives are somewhat unnecessary.

“I think they’re nice to have there but I don’t need every teacher to tell me what we’re reading or writing,” Kelm said.

For some classes, it has been difficult to comply with these initiatives every day. This has been especially true for fine arts classes, such as those of art teacher Erica Crist.

“The biggest challenge is having quality things for students to read,” Crist said. “Resources as far as reading are the hardest.”

Stinnett also thinks that the standards have their difficulties.

“I think there are growing pains with any transitions,” Stinnett said. “Students have had certain expectations, and now they’re seeing [the ELA initiatives] in all of their courses. There’s some pushback, but it will ultimately benefit students in the long run.”

Overall, opinions on the new standards are varied. According to a recent survey by the JagWire, 37 percent of students do not think the standards benefit students. Sophomore Megan Feurborn agrees.

“I think it’s a bad idea because it is hard to get kids to learn on the same level,” Feurborn said. “Some are behind and some are ahead.”

However, Kelm thinks the standards could have strong long-term benefits for students.

“Most people could probably end up on the A/B honor roll if they actually tried,” Kelm said. “I think Common Core might give them that push to try.”

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