"Let's talk about equivalent fractions," said JPS math coordinator Denise Pusateri to a group of third- through sixth-grade teachers. "With the new Common Core Learning Standards, we will begin talking about equivalent fractions in the third grade. They are the heart of learning about fractions. If students can understand equivalent fractions in the third grade, it will make their math education in fifth and sixth grade so much easier. A phrase I want you to take back to the classroom for equivalent fractions is, 'modified by 1.' We want students to understand that we are not changing the value of the fractions, only that it looks different but still holds the same value. This can be a difficult concept for them to understand. Let's go over some ways to help them."
Mrs. Pusateri led a Fractions Workshop in conjunction with the new Math NYS Common Core Learning Standards.
"Fractions are the focal point for learning algebra so we are focusing on this with our third- through sixth-grade teachers," said Mrs. Pusateri. "We are holding workshops for the teachers so they can understand the new standards and how important fractions are to a student's further success in math. We want teachers to understand, and use, math vocabulary and to be able to model the new standards to students."
Lincoln Elementary School teachers Cindy Bolling and Karen Sykes work on a math problem during a summer Fractions Workshop with math coordinator Denise Pusateri.
Mrs. Pusateri's workshop is just one of many ways the Jamestown Public Schools are implementing the new NYS Common Core Learning Standards to all kindergarten through fourth-grade classroom teachers, fifth- through eighth-grade math and English Language Arts teachers, special education teachers, reading specialists, English as a Second Language teachers and speech pathologists. All kindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms will be using the Common Core Learning Standards this school year. Grades nine through 12 are required to use them beginning in the 2013-14 school year.
In January 2011, the NYS Board of Regents approved the recommended additions to the Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy and Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics, plus a new set of prekindergarten standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an effort designed to improve educational outcomes for students by developing a set of common, voluntary, internationally benchmarked academic standards in mathematics and English Language Arts. The standards provide clear, consistent expectations for what students should be learning at each grade in order to be prepared for college and career. New York state is one of the first to implement the new standards.
"The Common Core Learning Standards are intended to ensure that every student is ready for the 21st century global workforce with career and college readiness being its goals," said JPS English Language Arts coordinator Annette Miller. "An important part of the new Common Core Standards is that ELA is incorporated into all subject areas, not just English class. Nonfiction text proficiency is especially important where reading and extracting information, such as a lab report, become integral to a student's success. We cannot effectively teach those other subjects without teaching reading. Students need to be able to read and comprehend text that they will be confronted to read in their future schooling, careers, and daily lives."
Both the ELA and math departments have scrutinized the new standards, and principals began preparing all teachers last year with the new shifts in the ELA standards. Both kindergarten through fourth grades in ELA and fifth and sixth grades in math have begun unit planning based on new standards. A new fifth- and sixth-grade ELA textbook was chosen based on the new standards. Teachers also received training on how to effectively use the textbook to ensure alignment to the standards.
The Common Core Learning Standards are being implemented this year, but it is an ongoing process within the district.
"Through department meetings, we will follow up and continue to hold training and workshops for teachers to understand the new standards into the school year," said Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Pusateri. "Where questions and needs arise, we will be available to help teachers understand and implement the new standards into their classrooms to better fulfill our district's obligation to graduate career- and college-ready students."