Teachers, students settle into Common Core

Posted August 30, 2013 4:09 p.m. EDT
Updated September 6, 2013 10:03 a.m. EDT

— Despite ongoing political battles over the Common Core educational standards used through much of the country, area teachers say they and their students are settling into a new way of learning.

North Carolina schools are starting their second year using Common Core, which emphasizes giving students the ability to understand reading and math concepts and apply them to the real world.

The goal of the standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers in cooperation with other nonprofits and state leaders, is to raise the bar in the classroom and have consistency from state to state.

"I see a lot more engagement in class," said Laura Shute, a seventh-grade math teacher at East Wake Middle School.

There's a lot of math talk in her class. "It's why is it 20 plus 20? How do you know it's 20? Where does 20 come from? What is that number made up of?"

Students learn the value of teamwork. "I think the biggest difference is collaborating and having to go much deeper into it rather than just giving them notes and you can regurgitate how you do that math," Shute said.

Although Common Core is a national standard, each school district – even each school – can determine how to implement it.

"Our teachers still have the flexibility to choose what's best for our kids," said Todd Wirt, assistant superintendent for academics for the Wake County Public School System. "The pieces of literature we choose here at East Wake Middle, based on the needs and prior knowledge and that sort of thing, may be different than another school."

Wirt said the conversion to Common Core last year went well, but he cautioned that school assessments may not bear that out.

"We know, historically in North Carolina, when we implement new assessments, we typically see a fairly dramatic dip in performance, and we're expecting that," he said.

Statewide assessment scores under the Common Core standards will be released in October.

"It's a big change, and I think the kids are still getting used to it, but I think, in the long run, it will pay off big time," Shute said.