Town hall meeting discusses Common Core math standards

A photo of Laura Hayes speaking in a school gymnasium.

At the town hall meeting, Laura Hayes, a math teacher at Oakland Technical High School, explains that CCSS has been beneficial for her ninth-grade students.

With the goal of creating an understanding of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a town hall meeting was held at Claremont Middle School on Monday evening. The meeting concentrated on the new math standards and aligning middle school classes with CCSS.

Created by the National Association of State School Superintendents, CCSS aims to unify national goals in math and other subjects from kindergarten to high school. In August 2010, California began to roll out the new standards, which have been adopted in 44 other states. A new assessment, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, will be conducted in some schools throughout Oakland in the spring of 2014, but will not be fully implemented until the fall of 2014. All SBAC tests will be taken on the computer, which has led to a district-wide approval of the adoption of Chromebooks, which are expected to be in all of the schools by March.

Mark Triplett, the Director of Instruction for Middle Schools, suggests that the biggest difference between CCSS and old California state standards is the emphasis on students’ ability to explain their work, rather than just to provide the right answer.  “The real crux of the Common Core, particularly math, is that the emphasis is on problem-solving,” Triplett said. He added that students will also be expected to recognize “there are multiple ways to solve real-world problems.”

CCSS also calls for new course sequences in math to help prepare students for rigorous college courses, with three different tracks available depending on students’ abilities. Sequence A recommends that students take math through Algebra II, while Sequence B caters to students who are struggling. Sequence C is an accelerated course for students who are excelling in their math classes. The final sequence allows students to take condensed classes of Algebra II and Math Analysis in their junior year, then AP calculus in senior year. In addition, Algebra I will now be taken in ninth grade by all students, as opposed to in eighth grade to allow for a more thorough understanding of the mathematics.

Laura Hayes, a mathematics teacher at Oakland Technical High School, says she taught California state standards for five years but has been following CCSS for the past year. She thinks that the switch has been beneficial for the students, adding that CCSS allows her students to have a “deeper conceptual understanding of what is happening.” She also believes that her current ninth-grade students have stronger problem solving skills than in the past, in part because of the program’s focus on Algebra I. “The level of discussion that my students are able to have (is much higher),” Hayes said. “I’m attributing that to the fact that they weren’t pushed too fast.”

The Oakland Unified School District Board of Education will vote on the proposed CCSS math sequences in the next few months. Although CCSS has already been rolled out in some schools throughout the district, a standardized curriculum is still being decided on.

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