Belen Schools implementing Common Core standards

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Belen Consolidated Schools administrators and teachers are busy absorbing information about educational state standards set to begin in the fall.

The Common Core State Standards aim to teach students the same curriculum and skills across the nation in an effort to better prepare them for college or the workforce.

"There is still a lot of work to be done, but there is a lot of progress that we've made," said Geneva Nixon, the district's curriculum director, at the Board of Education's March meeting.

Implementation of the New Mexico Common Core State Standards will begin in the fall for kindergarten through third grade for English language arts and mathematics, according to the NMCCSS website.

The 2013-14 school year will follow up with that progress by implementing this material from fourth through 12th grade on top of teaching literacy standards for social studies/history, science and technical subjects in grades six through 12.

New Mexico opted to adopt an additional 15 percent of their own standards in English language arts, but not in mathematics. These were added to address cultural competence, the site stated.

To gear up for this implementation, the New Mexico Public Education Department created a series of informational sessions, institutes and conferences for teachers, where they learn more information, such as teaching strategies, about the curriculum.

About $365,000 has been earmarked for Common Core training for teachers and principals, said Board President Sam Chavez.

"The primary function is going to be to get everyone up to par and trained," Chavez said.

Students' knowledge varies from state to state depending on the educational standards in place.

Common Core, adopted in October 2010 by New Mexico Secretary of Education Designate Susanna Murphy, creates a shared set of educational standards used throughout 45 states plus the District of Columbia for English language arts and mathematics.

"Common standards will help ensure that students are receiving a high quality education consistently, from school to school and state to state," to prepare them for college or the workforce regardless of where they live, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website.

The standards are split into two categories to define the knowledge and skills students should possess during their education, including college and career readiness detailing what students are expected to learn upon graduation, and K-12 describing grade level expectations.

These provide an outline for student learning, which teachers can use to figure out the knowledge and skills a students should have upon entering their class and build upon that.

But teachers shouldn't panic about the change in state standards, said Patricia Castillo, the district's federal programs director, since Common Core will focus on a narrower scope of information teachers need to educate students about compared to the current state standards.

"The hope is that we won't be leaving kids behind, because we will work with them specifically in the areas that they need," Castillo said.

Common Core will cut out repetition in course curriculum, Nixon said.

"Teachers are now going to be able to delve, in more detail, into the skills they are teaching, and there is in some cases not the overlap of a skill being taught and learned and mastered," she said . "At the kindergarten level, once its mastered, the student moves onto another set or a different kind of skill at the first-grade level."

Students will be tested on their knowledge through a computer-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, according to NMCCSS website.

To prepare students for the switch from Standard Based Assessment, NMPED is building a bridge assessment.

The district is still unsure of how the computer-based state exams will affect the kind and amount of technology the district has or what instructional materials they will be mandated to purchase.

Parents will receive informational packets about Common Core through their schools.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.