The new English curriculum is the first of many in MCPS
The English department began implementing a curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) for ninth grade this school year. The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) developed the CCSSI in an effort to nationalize a K-12 curriculum based on real-world applications.
The CCSSI includes a set of standards that primarily targets the English and math curricula, but also social studies and science curricula. According to the NGA Center core standards website, "these standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce." The curricula focus on developing analytical and problem-solving skills in conjunction with the subject material. "Common standards will help ensure that students are receiving a high quality education consistently," the website reads.
For ninth grade English classes, the new curriculum means a greater emphasis on writing, according to English resource teacher Vickie Adamson. "Whereas the HSAs did away with writing, we're bringing it back," Adamson said. Ninth grade English teacher Erin Conley agreed that there was a major shift in the new curriculum. "Our classes previously had been more text-based. We had more books to read and analytic writing based on longer texts," she said. "But now, we have more focus on shorter texts and writing about what the students are interested in." In Conley's classes, this has included writing reviews of poems and songs.
The NGA Center, in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers, introduced the CCSSI on June 1, 2009. Forty-five states including Maryland have since adopted the Common Core State Standards, with plans of when to officially implement the new curricula varying among local education systems.
Other grades' English classes and subjects including math, science and social studies will fully implement the standards next year. This is because the process is still in a "transition phase," according to Adamson and science resource teacher Summer Roark Thiero. Roark attributed the delay to deciding on how to test the new curriculum. "There's still testing to figure out—making sure that kids can grasp the new subject matter introduced but also understand the old concepts so they can get through testing such as the HSAs," Roark said.
According to Adamson, however, this year will possibly be the last for tests like the HSAs. This is so that testing designed to assess mastery of the core curricula can take place instead. The Montgomery County education system is considering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) as an assessment. However, there is still speculation of how often and by what means students will take the PARCC. "One idea of the Maryland education system was for all of the students to take two tests per year for the four subjects on the computer," social studies resource teacher Mary Lou Thornton said. "But the problem is, we don't have enough computers at Blair. So they're still trying to work out the logistics."
Still, Conley believes that the curriculum based on the CCSSI is worth the effort. "Hopefully, students will become more interested in writing," she said.
Urvi Banerjee. More »