Lake Zurich schools incorporate new standards into instruction
Bill Priest, a teacher at Lake Zurich's Isaac Fox Elementary, prepares in August for the school year. Teachers have been tasked with implementing a new "Common Core" curriculum designed to prepare students for college and careers. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-
Updated: November 12, 2012 10:42AM
LAKE ZURICH — Local school officials are changing instruction to meet new educational standards designed to provide a “common core” of knowledge for all students.
Referred to as Common Core, the Illinois State Board of Education adopted the new learning standards in June of 2010. The goal is to provide students knowledge they need to succeed in college or the workplace.
The standards were developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association for Best Practices. All but five states — Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Virginia and Alaska — have signed on.
“What a student in Montana needs to know in fifth-grade math is mostly the same as a student in Illinois,” said Mary Fergus, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education.
The common core standards focus on math and English, though educators are upgrading standards in other subject areas as well. This is the first update in learning standards in Illinois since 1997, according to the State Board of Education website.
A new exam, known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, is being developed. It’s tentatively scheduled for the 2014-15 school year, Fergus said.
After adopting the standards, the State Board of Education also is supplying professional development assistance to educators. But it’s up to individual school districts to adjust the local curriculum and teaching.
“We’ve begun the process of rewriting the curriculum to see how it will work in the classroom,” reported Jody Wirt, assistant superintendant of Lake Zurich Community School District 95.
Wirt explained that the changes being made to the district’s math curriculum involve lessons that go beyond the problem and answer model. The new curriculum incorporates what she calls procedural knowledge.
“There are sometimes multiple ways of solving problems,” she said.
Wirt said the emphasis will be on application and figuring out the most efficient way to solve a problem.
“These tasks are going to be very different than what people have experienced in the past,” Wirt said. “Right now, our teachers are working collaboratively to design those tasks.”
Wirt explained that the reading curriculum in District 95 also is changing to align with the adoption of the Common Core Standards.
“There’s a heavier emphasis on nonfiction reading,” she said, before noting the different reading strategies associated with fiction versus nonfiction.
“Our teachers have always placed an emphasis on knowing the strategies you use when reading,” said Wirt. “The level of complexity of text at each grade level will increase.”
Wirt said the new reading strategies will be emphasized across disciplines, including art, social studies and science.
The new curriculum also is going to push students to use their knowledge in real-life situations, Wirt said. Teachers in District 95 already have been attending professional development workshops to examine ways to implement the curriculum.
“We’re still developing it,” Wirt said, “but we have teachers who are already piloting these in the classroom.”
Wirt reported that most of the teachers she’s talked to view these changes as positive and progressive.
“They’ve accepted the challenge and are thoughtfully going about the process,” she said. “They’re working very diligently.”