NORWALK, Conn. – Michael Schneider's kindergarten year just started, but Norwalk Public School officials have a prediction for his future: He will never take the standardized tests older schoolchildren have endured.
This school year marks the beginning of a three-year plan to transition to "Common Core" standards, which have been voluntarily adopted by 46 states. The program defines what students should know at each grade level. School districts decide on their own how to get there. The State Board of Education adopted the standard with a unanimous vote in July 2010.
One facet of the program will be a new form of assessing student progress, a process that will involve more teacher input, teachers say.
"The students in kindergarten now who will graduate college in 2030 will never take a CMT or the CAPT," said Craig Creller, a mathematics instructional specialist and one of 35 people on a team that has been working for two years to transition Norwalk to the program.
"We've been doing a lot of research on it, working with the teachers in small committees, to try to think what kind of shifts we have to make instructionally so we'd be ready to meet this challenge," said Jean Evans Davila, an English language arts instructional specialist who is on the team. "It's a rigorous standard."
Step one: Norwalk's youngest pupils will be learning math in a different way this year. Kindergartners will work on counting by 10s, using their fingers to represent addition and subtraction. First-graders will learn to count, read, write and represent numbers up to 120. Third-graders will begin to study fractions, and fourth-graders will work on adding and subtracting multidigit problems. Fifth-graders will begin to learn to divide.
"The drivers of this program have researched the best practices of the more successful nations, such as Finland, China, South Korea, Canada and Singapore, to come up with a system of standards for teaching and assessment that would be better for our students," said Ponus Ridge Middle School language arts teacher Keesha Sullivan, a transition team member. "In the process, they discovered something that many of us suspected, that teaching deeper for understanding is better than teaching broader to simply cover a lot of material."