New state standards in education will be in place this fall in Hamilton, but work behind-the-scenes has been ongoing for years to prepare for the shift.
The state of Ohio in 2010 adopted Common Core State Standards in English and mathematics — meant to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, according to the Common Core Initiative. As well, the state created more rigorous versions of Ohio’s academic content standards in science and social studies.
“There are fewer standards to cover and teachers will have more time to go deeper,” said Keith Millard, Hamilton’s director of secondary programs, adding that the previous learning standards were a “mile wide and inch deep.”
Since the 2011-12 school year, a group of roughly 200 teachers and instructional coaches in Hamilton have been developing roughly 88 unique curriculum maps for each grade level and subject area, Millard said. Each curriculum map — between 30 and 60 pages long — details the knowledge and skills students need for success in college and careers.
“We have subject area specialists that have taken the lead on development and work with teams of teachers at grade levels,” Millard said.
The teams studied the new state standards and how they are changing; used “crosswalk” documents from the state to determine what could be salvaged from previous curriculum maps; and completely rewrote the maps to fit the new format, according to Millard.
“We had fabulous teachers and teams; it was a great process,” said Sherrie Morrison, instructional coach for math.
Morrison said the groups spent about five half- or full-day sessions to develop the new maps.
The curriculum will be more coherent with less repetition of topics year after year, Morrison said. Students will be taught at a greater depth, and online assessments launching in 2014-15 will include higher expectations for student learning.
“In math, concepts have moved down a grade level; the expectations have increased,” Millard said. “Students will be performing more rigorous, complex practices at a younger age.”
For example, measurements of angles will move from the fifth grade down to fourth grade, Morrison said.
Millard said while the learning standards are developed at the state level, school districts have “complete control to design” how it will be taught. The curriculum maps will be in place this fall and teachers will work on fine-tuning the contents.
A greater emphasize is being placed on reading and writing skills under the new state standards, said Corbin Moore, instructional coach for social studies. He said students will now be required to incorporate more writing and reading in all subjects including math and science, including conducting more research using primary sources.
“To promote inquiry and analysis,” Moore said. “We always have tried to embed literacy standards.”
Heidi Eldridge of Hamilton, co-president of the parent-teacher organization at Brookwood Elementary, said the teaching staff at the school has been very good at keeping parents updated on their child’s progress and the new changes coming down from the state.
“I’m fine with all the new standards; (reading and writing) are the most important,” Eldridge said.
Eldridge’s sons — fourth-grader Hunter and Peyton in the second grade — most enjoy the subjects of math and reading, respectively. Eldridge said her family decided to retain her second grader to repeat the grade this fall.
“He is being held back because his reading is behind,” Eldridge said. “In our opinion he wasn’t ready,” for the new third grade reading assessments.
Eldridge said she met monthly with reading intervention staff to fully understand the needs of her son.
“I’m proud to be a parent of the Hamilton City School District,” Eldridge said. “I see the direction they are going and I support it.”