Florida schools have one more academic year to fully get ready for Common Core State Standards.
This new way of teaching is designed to better prepare students for college and a career.
Thousands of teachers are getting help from the Florida Department of Education at training sessions this summer – studying a different way to guide student learning.
Principals and other school personnel are learning, too.
K-12 Deputy Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen says administrators need enough knowledge about the standards to recognize them in the classroom and lead teachers through the transition.
“It’s to help administrators recognize what a classroom where Common Core is being taught should look like and how to support teachers with resources and lesson study,” Tappen said this week during a training session near Pensacola. “So administrators have some skills but also some resources to help them.”
It’s a big change for long time educators like Bagdad Elementary School Principal Linda Gooch in Santa Rosa County. She’s worked in education more than three decades, seven of those years as an administrator.
She answered questions during a break from classes at the Department of Education’s Common Core Institute in Gulf Breeze.
Q: What are administrators learning at these summer institutes?
A: We are learning how to be the instructional leader that we need to be to make sure that our teachers are able to implement Common Core in the way that it should be.
We have to have a little bit of information about all of the different areas because it’s up to us to make sure that we are providing the professional development that our teachers need and encouraging our teachers to be leaders – to work with their grade levels and to work with other grade levels because we can’t do it all.
Q: What concerns do your teachers come to you with about the Common Core?
A: The time – because to go into depth with lessons requires a lot of time. As teachers, we want to make sure that our kids have learned everything, so we tend to be those people that we just give them all the knowledge. With Common Core, you don’t do that. It’s more student directed and more student led.
So you’ve got to kind of shift your whole mindset – you’re going to be the facilitator for learning, not just the instructor. We’re gonna have to stop talking as much and let the kids talk to each other, because they can learn so much from each other instead of us giving them the answers all the time. They’ll learn to solve problems.
Q: What do you think will be the biggest change for teachers?
A: I think the biggest change will probably be that they’re going to have to back off and let their students have an active role in their learning – and help those students who would not have that active role. Those kids that don’t really have a lot of knowledge may tend to back off and not want to get engaged. So we’re going to have to find the ways to encourage them.
Q: Are you concerned that you’re going to lose teachers because of this change to Common Core?
A: Most of my teachers at my school are excited about the Common Core. For those teachers that have taught for several years, it’s a little bit more like what they used to do with thematic teaching. So they have some enthusiasm about it.
We’re a little worried about the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test because it’s something new. We haven’t seen it. But my teachers for the most part have been on board and they’re excited and willing to make the changes.
Are we where we need to be? No, but I don’t think anybody would say that they are totally where they need to be right now. It’s a learning process, and so we’re all learning together and just keeping the students as the center of everything that we do.