S.F. teachers share their insights on Common Core

Oct 22, 2014 by

Jill Tucker –

The new Common Core way of teaching has been challenging, interesting, stressful and fun, San Francisco teachers told U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during a two-day tour of city schools this week.

Teachers from across the district, gathered at Roosevelt Middle School in the Richmond District, described how their teaching has shifted under the Common Core, a new set of grade-by-grade standards adopted by 43 states that emphasize critical thinking and deeper analysis of information.

In math, that means getting rid of worksheets that have students repetitively adding or multiplying columns of numbers.

“When I started teaching, I taught math how I learned math,” Mai-Tien Nyugen, a fourth-grade teacher at Redding Elementary school, told the secretary. “You get the answer right away. But they would ask me, ‘Why is three times four 12?’ I would tell them it just is.”

Now, her students figure out the why — making posters and writing long-form answers explaining their thought process.

“It’s not just numbers anymore,” Nyugen said. “These numbers have value and meaning.”

Common Core has been controversial across the country, with critics arguing the standards are less rigorous or that the curriculum, whether created by local teachers or textbook publishers, is untested and haphazard.

Unlike a few other states, California has not wavered from implementing Common Core. San Francisco was among the first districts to create a curriculum based on the new standards.

“Hearing from real teachers who are leading this and what they’re thinking about and what it means for the students is extraordinarily powerful,” Duncan said.

Veteran San Francisco teachers have developed much of the curriculum, which includes more nonfiction reading than typically used under the old California standards.

In Mary Farr’s kindergarten class at Guadalupe Elementary, the students have been reading about animals and hibernation and learning the difference between a “fact” and an “opinion.”

That’s not an easy topic to teach given what is a “fact” at that age, Farr said.

“They believe in the tooth fairy,” she said with a smile.

The new standards have raised “a million questions” from parents, because the homework and classwork look nothing like what it looked like when the parents were in school, said Lizzy Hull-Barns, a district math administrator.

But given that the old way created a country of “math phobes” — two-thirds of seventh graders would rather eat broccoli than do math — making the topic fun and interesting is a good idea, Hull-Barns said.

“I love the thoughtful way you’ve gone about this,” Duncan told the district staff after they spoke. “Every place, there are bumps and wrinkles.”

via S.F. teachers share their insights on Common Core – SFGate.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.