Cleveland City Schools Director Martin Ringstaff and Cleveland Board of Education member Dawn Robinson outlined the coming changes and other highlights from the school system during a recent presentation to the Rotary Club of Cleveland.
“Common core for the state of Tennessee is an awesome thing,” Ringstaff said. “It makes sense for Tennessee.”
Ringstaff is a member of the State Leadership Council working through the transition at the state level to these standards.
“Twenty-two of us get together and argue about every single aspect,” Ringstaff said.
Tennessee is not the only state which has chosen Common Core. According to Ringstaff, 45 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted the standards.
The new standards are meant to ensure a high school graduate in New York and one in Tennessee are learning the same information and are equally prepared for college or a career. The standards are meant to build on one another from kindergarten to graduation.
“It is not a mandatory, nationally driven, ‘you have to do it or else’ kind of situation,” Ringstaff said. “The state of Tennessee currently ranks 48th in math (and) decided something needed to be done. We concurrently agree something needs to be done.”
Currently there are 135 standards which must be taught in third-grade math. Common Core narrows this to 50 or so more detailed standards.
Ringstaff said college preparation and career-ready students are the focus.
Input from K-12 educators, college educators and business leaders was part of the discussion when the standards were formulated.
“There are seven philosophical differences that are going to happen because of Common Core. Believe me this is a big change in curriculum and how we teach it,” Ringstaff said.
Fewer standards will be used, but a more detailed study will be made of the information.
An emphasis will be placed on nonfiction reading over the traditional fiction reading.
Ringstaff said fiction reading will still be included, only to a lesser degree.
“When you’re hiring people right now or they’re going to college, a lot of technical reading has to occur, so why are we not preparing them, K-12, for technical reading?” Ringstaff said.
The standards focus on complex thinking rather than simply being able to repeat information — “Lots of higher level thinking skills and how to apply those, which will make them stronger academically as they go along,” Ringstaff said.
Multiple choice tests will largely be a thing of the past.
“Not only do you have to get the right answer, but you have to show you got that right answer,” Ringstaff said. “Everything is word problems now.”
Students will score points for explanation and for solving the answer, which will give them some credit even if their final answer on a math problem is wrong.
Speaking and listening skills will also be emphasized.
“Students need to know how to interview, how to write resumes and all those kinds of things,” Ringstaff said.
Conversation skills will also be emphasized.
“Technology is in most, if not all, the standards,” Ringstaff said.
End-of-course testing will be online, Ringstaff said.
He said the ability to use technology is essential to success in the workplace and college.
“Life skills are emphasized across the subject areas. Meaning, although you are in math, you are going to know how to write and read in math. You are going to have to write and read in science,” Ringstaff said.
Ringstaff said some standards from what was previously taught have been removed altogether, because business leaders have said the skills are not needed.
“This is a major ... wave of change,” Rotary said.
Robinson gave the Rotary Club an overview of the school system’s budget. The majority of the school’s funding comes from the state. This is based on how many students are in the school systems. The state gives each school system about $7,900 per student. Next year’s budget proposal is $40.5 million.
She said this does not include any money for athletic programs beyond the coach’s salary. The majority of the schools budget is spent on salaries.
“Our enrollments are filling our elementary schools. Our high school has room for growth because we added that new science wing,” Robinson said.
The middle school also has some room for growth.