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Schools implement new core standards

9/4/2012

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Though the transition will be gradual, a change in educational standards is in the offing.

Like other schools across the state, Hays USD 489 is integrating Kansas Common Core Standards.

The transition to KCCS started approximately two years ago, said Will Roth, Hays USD 489 superintendent.

While they aren't national standards, 45 states have been involved in developing and implementing the standards, which came out of a meeting of state governors, he said.

"It's fairly revolutionary to get 45 states to agree to the same set of standards," Roth said. "I think it's good. I don't think the kids in Mississippi and the kids in Kansas ought to be learning different things."

However, Roth said the standards still allow local control.

The new standards aren't districts' curriculum, but they outline what students should know and be able to do in content areas, according to the Kansas State Department of Education.

Roth said schools' curriculum sometimes is criticized as "being a mile wide and an inch deep," but the standards require students to dig deeper into the subject matter. The emphasis will be on creative and original thinking to solve a problem.

The KCCS will allow for students' productive struggle and sustained focus, said Shanna Dinkel, Hays Middle School vice principal, and a member of the district's transition team.

Students likely will be challenged by the new standards, but taking time to work through problems, sometimes doing research in the middle of looking for the solution, is part of the concept, Roth said.

"It may not be easy at first, but it will stretch their minds," Dinkel said.

The standards will be implemented first in math, but the concepts can and will be supported school-wide.

Each USD 489 building has a team of administrators, teachers and support staff working to bridge the gap from the current assessments to the common core standards, Dinkel said.

"The (district) math and English curriculum committees met quite a bit over the summer," Roth said.

The teams attended a Kansas Department of Education workshop and developed an action plan for the two-year transition, Dinkel said.

For instance, the district's new consumable math series, based on core standards materials, is updated material each year, Roth said.

"We have the math in place, and that was the biggest change," he said. "English, language arts isn't as big a change."

While the district is transitioning to the new KCCS, the required assessment tests won't cover them yet.

"The thing that stresses teachers is ... next spring we'll be tested again with the old assessment over the old standards. They feel that if we go over to this new stuff, our kids are going to fail miserably (because) it's not what we taught. I've been told by state people ... we're just going to let that happen. If we show up bad, we don't care. It will have no impact on us."

A pilot program of KCCS is scheduled for the 2013-14 school year, and the field test for all Kansas districts will come the next school year.

The assessments will be the same configuration as now, with all students in grades three through eight and high school juniors taking the assessment.

"I'm excited about the way the common core standards are built," Roth said. "The curriculum shouldn't be separated. We can still have experts in separate areas, (but) the disciplines are all an integrated mass. We need to teach students what they need to know."