Dare County Schools teachers and administrators are taking advantage of five professional development days in this year’s school calendar to plan and prepare for sweeping curriculum changes that will be fully implemented statewide at the beginning of next school year. North Carolina has joined 46 other states to embrace new core curriculum and essential standards in an effort to better prepare students for career and college. The new standards are the result of a collaborative effort among states to address concerns voiced by universities and businesses that high school graduates must be better prepared for the challenges of work and the academic rigor of post-secondary education.
Dare County students and teachers in every grade and in every course are impacted in multiple ways by the new standards.
Nancy Griffin, Dare County Schools Director of Secondary Instruction, describes the standards as based on solid evidence about what students need to know and be able to do. “These are not just a collection of successful standards, but the very best of standards, and represent a narrowing down for focus, depth, and rigor. We are beginning in Pre-K with the end in mind to produce graduates that have the knowledge and skills that are demanded by universities and the workplace.”
As one would expect, the technology piece of this effort is huge, but does not stand alone in the line-up of big changes in the classroom. Moving away from technology as a vehicle to enhance stand-and-deliver instruction, schools now integrate technology as a tool and resource for student learning. More often, information can be found online rather than in published text. Citing sources, always important, now becomes paramount as students read to understand, process, and arrive at their own conclusions. The 3 R’s are overtaken by the Four C’s: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Embedded across all disciplines, the Four C’s, together with problem/purpose/project-based instruction, complemented with informational/primary source text, set the stage for teaching and learning.
Many of these strategies are not new; rather, they are refined and given prominence within the framework of the new essential standards to provide students with the tools to comprehend and analyze complex text and to apply the information in a meaningful way.
Griffin admits that these aggressive changes create challenges for staff, particularly at the elementary level where teachers are responsible for multiple core subjects. “The five days allowed by the state for professional development this year are helping to make this task manageable.”
The first of the five days of professional development was August 23 when teachers received an overview of the changes and met within their disciplines to identify similarities and differences in the current curriculum with the new essential standards. The focus on Friday, October 28, the second professional development day, was Information and Technology Essential Standards (ITES) that are being implemented by all Dare County teachers this year.
In addition to providing resources for teachers, the district is actively spreading the word to parents and the community about what to expect next year. The primary resource - a work in progress - is on the district website New Common Core Curriculum Standards, that provides links for those wanting to understand the full breadth of the changes for students and teachers in North Carolina and across the nation.