Transcript for Common Core State Standards: High School
00:10 RAFAEL PI ROMAN
Welcome to Education Update. I’m Rafael Pi Roman. High school is the final chapter in our children’s education before they enter college or the workforce. But experts say many students are graduating unprepared, and that inadequate learning standards have played a role. To tackle this problem, over 40 states have now adopted the new Common Core State Standards, which will go into effect in just a few years. In this episode, we’ll take a look at what can be learned from teachers at two high schools in New York City who have already started working with the common core as part of a pilot program here.
Hillcrest high school in Queens, New York, a diverse community of about 3300 students. Preparing kids for life after high school is a top priority here. Students are grouped into small learning communities that connect to career tracks, like Pre-Med, Business Technology and Public Service and Law. Both English and math teachers here have started to use the new Common Core State Standards in their classrooms. Today, in 10th grade Geometry, Dayle Cohen and Cate Magrane are talking about triangles, and they’re staring with a vocabulary lesson.
01:15 CATE MAGRANE
Bisector. This one’s an easy prefix. What’s the prefix you see?
01:21 CATE MAGRANE
‘Bi.’ And the root? ‘Sect.’ Bi means two. ‘Sect’ – does anybody know what that means? To cut. Exactly.
01:30 CATE MAGRANE
We decided to structure it in a way that um as far as the Common Core Standards are concerned, to address precision. We were looking for how we can be exact in defining what structures are in place inside a triangle.
“Attend to precision” – it’s one of the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice that appear at the beginning of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. They outline the broad math skills that all kids should develop, and they appear at the top of every chapter. The high school chapters are organized by concept rather than grade, so states and schools can decide how to shape instruction. These concepts include: Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Geometry, Statistics and Probability, and Modeling – a concept meant to be incorporated across all high school math classes.
2:18 JASON ZIMBA
It's important for kids to be able to apply math to problems that are not given as a math problem. In the standards this is called modeling.
02:26 JOSÉ RIOS
I want you to use this logic to solve this problem, using logs.
“Modeling” is an important part of instruction in José Rios’s Algebra and Trigonometry class. Today his students are using logarithms to figure out how long it will take an eight-dollar allowance to grow into twenty.
02:43 JOSÉ RIOS
I'm trying to take things like allowance, money. Things that they like. Things that they know about. Things they may be curious about. And, the Core is informing my decision to do it that way. The point is to make it, a deeper experience for a student. Not just formulas. Something they can take with them, that they will hold on to. They can see how math is used in a daily way.
03:02 JOSÉ RIOS
Twenty. We’re looking for 20 bucks. So how many years, Gjinis?
The 20 is between five and six years.
03:07 JOSÉ RIOS
Between five and six years.
03:10 JOSÉ RIOS
That’s how long it’s going to take eight dollars to turn into?
03:14 JOSÉ RIOS
Twenty dollars. Thank you so much, Gjinis.
03:16 JOSÉ RIOS
Look everybody. We took this tough problem and we made it into an algebraic problem.
03:24 JOSÉ RIOS
I think students are seeing that, is a willing to go that extra step. To have them really apply something that we've learned to something in the real world. Something that they’ve never seen before, something that's richer, something that's a little more profound.
03:36 CATE MAGRAN
We had a very similar experience in our classroom. We saw them taking part. We saw them doing, getting pretty deep into what we were looking for. Because they were working so hard on it, it actually took us longer than we wanted to take. But, that was good learning. And that's what we really want to achieve.
The standards writers say this is key. Too often, they say, math standards actually incorporate too much material, which teachers and students end up racing through. The Common Core Standards are designed to be fewer and clearer, so teachers can slow down and ensure students gain a deeper understanding.
04:08 KEITH PROWELL
This is a little different. It's taking a little bit longer. Because what they're finding in problem solving is that there are many ways to do problems. It is no one way.
04:17 STEPHEN M. DUCH
I think what I see that's different for students is, and teachers' expectations of students, is students have moved from being the receptors of information to being the processors of the information that they receive.
Hillcrest’s principals like the new Common Core Standards. But they do have some concerns about how they will be implemented before new state exams arrive in 2014.
04:41 DAVID MORRISON
These are K-12 standards and as we implement them, obviously there will be a gap. So, the students come into high school, not having experienced the standards since kindergarten, there will be an implementation gap.
04:54 STEPHEN M. DUCH
I think our biggest concern regarding the implementation is waiting to see what the state assessments are going to look like in relationship to the new standards. The sooner we know what the assessments are going to look like, I believe the quicker we can move on the implementation of the standards within our school.
Hillcrest teachers are providing feedback on the new assessments, which New York State is helping design. Experts say the new tests will look a lot different. They will be given throughout the year, the math tests will involve more modeling, and the English tests, a lot more writing.
The new Common Core Standards for Engligh Lanuage Arts and Literacy contain four main strands across all grade levels: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Each strand begins with College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards, which correspond with the content standards one-to-one. And like the math standards, the writers say English standards are clearer, more focused and more rigorous.
05:54 DAVID COLEMAN
The standards aim to achieve far greater depth of mastery. So what you’re choosing is fewer things that must be done extremely well. In the case of the standards I would summarize that as to read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter. That is, the standards reward students who continually hone their craft in reading and gathering evidence from what they’re reading, and then their ability to present that information clearly and that evidence clearly, in conversation as well as in writing.
06:20 DANIELLE RUGGIERO
Was there a clear topic sentence in the introduction? Who says yes?
Today, students in Danielle Ruggiero’s 9th grade English class are working on the fourth draft of articles about recent events and issues at Hillcrest High School.
As you can see, bringing phones to school is a bad thing. It can distract kids from learning.
Traditionally, the standards writers say, too much emphasis has been placed on writing personal narratives, a skill rarely used in college or on the job. The Common Core Standards expect 80 percent of writing in high school to be expository and persuasive.
06:55 DANIELLE RUGGIERO
Just before, even, it was really hard for them to understand how to articulate their reasons for why they believe what they believe. And to have evidence to support that. With the Common Core, and breaking it down really specifically, it gets more out of them because it's a lot more focused and it's a lot more clear. So, it's nice to see that improvement. It takes a while to get there, but.
Upstairs, English teacher Jill Lee’s students are also working on a writing assignment – an argumentative essay. They’re reading news articles and reports to find solid sources.
Hispanic and black youth average about 13 hours of media exposure daily.
07:30 JILL LEE
One of the things we noticed about our high school kids is that we are not preparing them for college. They need to know how to read sources. They need to know how to independently research papers. And they need to know how to write a proper paper. It is really important for them to know, number one, that there are various sources. Some are reliable, and some are not. And they need to independently be able to determine that.
Reading more complex informational text is another big shift in the Common Core Standards. In high school, the standards say seventy percent of reading should be literary non-fiction, and include standards not just for reading literature, but also for reading informational text. But it’s not expected that all this will only be done in English class. The standards also include a section called Literacy in History & Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.
08:22 SHAEL POLAKOW-SURANSKY
Everyone in the school has to start thinking about literacy.
Shael Polakow-Suransky is the second-in-command at the New York City Department of Education. He’s a proponent of the Common Core Standards and is leading the pilot program here.
08:33 SHAEL POLAKOW-SURANSKY
It's not good enough for it just to be the English teachers. So social studies teachers have to start thinking about, can the kids access these texts?
08:41 DAVID RIESENFELD
What impact did clashing values have on European imperialism in Africa?
David Riesenfeld is one of those social studies teachers. He’s leading the Common Core pilot here at Robert Wagner, a secondary school of about 550 students, also in Queens, New York. Riesenfeld is focusing on the standards’ sections that require identifying points of view, and citing textual evidence.
09:02 DAVID RIESENFELD
What do we have to do to debate it? What kinds of things must we have?
You need facts.
09:07 DAVID RIESENFELD
Ok, good. So what do we use for facts, what’s that word we tend to talk about?
09:11 DAVID RIESENFELD
Good. So, we’re talking about we have to use evidence. And this is important guys because this hits on one of the standards we’re focusing on which is, citing evidence from the things that we get our information from.
09:20 DAVID RIESENFELD
The nice thing about this is that there's a heavy component in these standards that try to address the things that kids are going to need to know as they walk into any aspect of life. So, whether you're doing a career track or a college track, you're going to have to know how communicate certain things in certain ways. I mean, anywhere from the auto mechanic to the university professor, we're going to have to look at how kids can take information that they're presented with, whether it's a manual or an academic text, and understand what to do with it.
To prepare for today’s history class on European Imperialism in Africa, Riesenfeld’s tenth-graders studied photos and illustrations from an Eyewitness book on Africa, read an essay by 16th century social reformer Bartolomé de las Casas, and read excerpts from the novel “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe, a complex text recommended in the standards’ appendix. They must now use what they’ve read in a class debate. On one side, the European imperialists. On the other, the indigenous Africans.
The way they went about things, in like tortuous ways and cruel ways, that’s not the way you do things.
Our culture has been working the way is has been for hundreds years. And we’re not struggling.
So let’s say your crops get infected with some disease. How are you going to eat? There will be a famine.
But then the way you do it, you just come in and kill everybody and take the land for your benefit, not to help us.
Jennifer Apodaca is a consultant who’s working with teachers at Robert Wagner on the literacy pilot program.
10:46 JENNIFER APODACA
I thought the questions that you prepared were extremely focused. I felt that every kid was able to articulate something very different and distinct, which is what we’ve been wanting them to do, is to engage in that material. I think the facts were there, but I think it could have been much more … specific.
11:06 DAVID RIESENFELD
I absolutely agree. I think that there wasn’t’ as much - they didn't go back to the facts that they have.
11:11 JENNIFER APODACA
Maybe you want to say, ‘Use these sources.’ So maybe you have to specify, like, ‘You must use information from the following documents.’
11:22 DAVID RIESENFELD
No matter where you go, guys, this stuff is going to be extremely important.
Riesenfeld is a fan of the new standards, which have pushed him to try new things in the classroom, like asking different types of questions, stepping back as the facilitator and getting the kids to come up with the information rather than handing it to them. But changing the way he teaches has not been easy.
11:40 DAVID RIESENFELD
I think it's been kind of a roller coaster a little bit. When it first started out, I was a little uncomfortable with it, I kind of held onto some of my old ideas about things.
11:48 DAVID RIESENFELD
I remember our first conversations at the beginning of the year. And they weren't the happiest conversations.
11:52 JENNIFER APODACA
You're much happier now, I have to say. You really are.
11:56 DAVID RIESENFELD
I had the resistance you know. I didn't really let my guard down. But, the evidence that we're seeing in terms of the writing and improvement in communication, I see that the kids start to rise to some of the objectives that we are setting for them.
Robert Wagner is a relatively small community with a dedicated staff. But like many urban schools in America, it faces challenges. According to Bruce Noble, principal during the 2010-2011 school year, the dropout rate here hovers around 30 percent. And he wonders how schools like his will be held accountable given their challenges – and all the other demands on his staff.
12:30 BRUCE NOBLE
I'm hopeful in the sense that it's a national reform, and it has a tremendous amount of political support behind it. I'm also a little leery of everything else that's coming at us. I's hard to see how we can add this to our plates.
Polakow-Suransky acknowledges it’s a tough time to introduce new reforms. But, he believes teachers will find the new standards to be a positive shift.
12:54 SHAEL POLAKOW-SURANSKY
So what's unique about this is it's the first time you see federal, state, and districts working closely together. Usually one is going in one direction, the other is going the other direction, and it's actually very confusing for people in schools. And by saying, here's what we all agree kids need to know and be able to do, and we're going to just focus really well on this, and we're going to stop doing some of the stuff we've been doing that's actually a distraction, we're going to take some work off of your plate, I think it actually changes from being a new burden to being, wow, this could actually make sense.
13:34 DAVID RIESENFELD
Standardizing things is a tough thing, because kids aren't standard. Like, you can't look at a group of kids and say, ‘Oh, you're a standard group of people, you’re all the same.’ They're not drones, they're not clones, you can't figure out how to make something that's going to blanket everything and fix all the problems that they have. But I think this is a step towards that, and I think it's a step towards creating something that will increase the level and increase the rigor of everything that's done in public schools, as long as we can create a framework for it to happen in a reasonable way.