District fine-tuning CCRS message

10/22/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

The USD 457 Board of Education Monday night continued a discussion about the College and Career Ready Standards presentation that board members will give in support of the standards at the Kansas Association of School Board's State convention in December.

College and Career Ready Standards, also known as Common Core Standards, aim to provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. The standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K through 12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs, according to the Common Core Standards Initiative website.

At the Oct. 7 board meeting, district administration and board members discussed ways to fine tune the CCRS presentation, which will be based on the same presentation that Sally Cauble, District 5 Kansas Board of Education member, and Jean Clifford, USD 457 board member, and several USD 457 instructional coaches presented at the Sept. 23 USD 457 board meeting.

USD 457 Superintendent Rick Atha presented board members with drafts of both the Power Point presentation and brochure that will be provided to attendees of the state meeting. The brochure will include information about each board member and about the district. Several board members told Atha that including more data about USD 457 in terms of its size and its unique demographic makeup will lend credibility to the district's support of Career and College Readiness Standards.

Clifford said including information about instructional coaches, who are helping board members to prepare their presentation, will show that the district, as a whole, supports the standards.

"It lends itself that this is a cooperative venture on our part — that it's not the board pushing this, and it's not the superintendent or administration people pushing it, it's not the staff pushing it — it's a cooperation, and I think that would kind of show that," she said.

The main points of the presentation include an overview of CCRS, the current reality of education, educators' plan of action and common misconceptions about CCRS. Board Member Mark Rude said that allotting time for a question-and-answer segment might be as important as the presentation itself, which the board is giving at both 1 and 2:15 p.m. on Dec. 8 in Wichita.

"I think we'll want to move right along, hit the high points, get into the sort of misconceptions and we may find out at the first presentation that there isn't a lot of Q and A, but I would expect those folks to want to converse a little, and so we want to be sure to have time for that, as well," Rude said.

Board members are going to give the presentation at the district's Nov. 4 board meeting, as a sort of practice run.

Monday night's meeting also included information about an Instructional Transformation Initiative, a comprehensive plan aimed at improving students' literacy, while lining curriculum up with Common Core Standards expectations.

The first phase of the initiative involves a writing committee, chaired by Ranay Alcorn, literacy coach at Garden City High School, and co-chaired by Christopher Korbe, second-grade teacher at Florence Wilson Elementary School. Alcorn told board members that the writing committee was charged with two tasks: develop system-wide practices for teaching writing and facilitate the shift to Career and College Readiness Standards. She said that the committee looked critically at what foundational skills are necessary in order for a student to answer a question.

"I think that's pretty amazing to look at that in those terms and see all the skills they need, starting at pre-K, that they can build upon to learn to give an articulate answer to a question and go off to college and be able to do that," Alcorn said.

Alcorn said that the overall goal is to equip students with skills that will enable them to articulate answers to questions, in the correct manner. She said approaching writing literacy in such a way will provide consistency district-wide.

"We just think that attacking our writing deficiencies in this way has to have positive results. If they are learning this skill from pre-K on, and it's all built upon, it can't help but to have a positive effect. I think it will be a really effective strategy," she said. "We're excited that we're the first group that went through this process."

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