Common Core Conversations: The New Math

On Oct. 7, the elementary school hosted “A Common Core Conversation,” a PTA-sponsored community forum for parents that addressed the New York State Common Core Math Standards for students in grades K-8. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kenneth Bossert, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Maureen Hull, Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Principal Thomas Meehan and teacher representatives from grades K-5 provided attendees with an intimate look into the instruction their children are receiving each day in the classroom. “Our teachers recommended that the district host this event to help parents better transition into the new math program,” said Hull. “It was a well-received idea that turned into a well-attended event.”

Bossert began the evening’s dialogue with an introduction to the rationales behind the assessments. “The New York State Education Department’s reasoning for the shift to Common Core relates to statistics pertaining to the June 2012 graduation rate, which suggests that although 74 percent of all students in New York State met that year’s graduation requirements, only 35.3 percent of them were calculated as college or career ready,” he stated. College or career ready students are classified as those who had scored above 75 on the English Regents examination and above 80 on the math Regents exam. Other factors influencing NYSED’s rationale include ranking according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, how students in the U.S. rank internationally, and the federal Race to the Top initiative.

Hull followed Bossert with a presentation on how teachers at the elementary level have been preparing for and implementing Common Core learning practices. “We want to be absolutely certain that our students are learning the curriculum we know they will be tested on this academic year,” said Hull. “Our goal is to help our teachers successfully adopt and adapt to the Common Core. In other words, we want them to be able to incorporate what they already know and practice with what has been provided by the state.”

Meehan followed with a discussion of his daily in-class observations. “Our teachers are working tirelessly to ensure that their students are not only prepared for testing, but also have a genuine classroom experience where they can continue to grow in a positive direction,” he said.
Edna Louise Spear teachers Anthony Butera, Sandra Eybs, Paige Lohmann, Doreen Marullo, Carleen Parmegiani and Megan Roth-Ueno provided an overview of math modules, a closer look at the key mathematics vocabulary for grades K-5 and demonstration lessons to help portray the newer components that are being implemented in the classroom. Such modules teach concepts from concrete to pictorial to abstract.

“As a mother of second-grade twins, I was overwhelmed by the ‘new’ math homework,” said Port Jefferson parent and PTA President Jennifer Cobb. “It was difficult watching them struggle every night. Rather than complain, I wanted to learn about it. I wanted to know how to help my children and be proactive with regard to their academics."

The evening concluded with a question-and-comment session for parents and community members.

“It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child,” said Cobb. “I believe the Port Jefferson School District is a wonderful example of this. We are a community that supports our teachers and we are all working together to figure out how to help our children.”