BROADALBIN - A group of teachers in the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District organized a camp this summer to help other teachers better understand what the new Common Core learning standards are meant to accomplish.
Four of the eight teachers who designed the camp agenda and exercises gave a presentation about the camp to the Board of Education on Monday. Those teachers were Sandy Sullivan, Beth Tomlinson, Rita Swatt and Kelly Hanson.
Many schools across the state saw students struggle this spring on tests to meet the new Common Core learning standards.
Some of the Broadalbin-Perth Central School?District teachers who organized a Common Core Camp during the summer to help staff understand the standards are shown Monday. The teachers are, from left, Beth Tomlinson, Kelly Hanson, Sandy Sullivan and Rita Swatt. (The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher)
On the 2011-12 state tests, the percentage of Broadalbin-Perth students who were deemed proficient on a given assessment ranged from 47 percent to 68 percent, depending on the grade and subject. Statewide, this range was between 50 percent and 69 percent.
The proficiency levels for Broadalbin-Perth - and districts across the state - were lower on the 2012-13 state tests. In Broadalbin-Perth, the percentage of students deemed proficient on a given assessment ranged from 10 percent to 43 percent, depending upon the grade level and subject. Statewide, the average range was between 28 percent and 36 percent.
The Common Core changed not only testing, but also the way and timing curriculum is presented as well.
To address concerns among district teachers about the standards, the eight teachers organized a three-day Common Core Camp for fellow district teachers in August totaling 15 hours.
The eight teachers were trained by Common Core officials in Albany who were responsible for writing the new learning standards in each subject being implemented across the state.
"With all the changes that are here in both areas, [teachers] were nervous to get started," said Tomlinson. "So it was really nice to have that time to get together and work together."
However, Tomlinson said, as teachers became more familiar with what Common Core is and what they are expected to accomplish, they did not feel as overwhelmed by the new standards.
Sullivan said their colleagues felt more prepared after the camp because during the three workshops they received materials to help implement more Common Core instruction in classrooms.
One example, the teachers said, was to use time accordingly to cover the vast amount of required information even if the teachers only have a few minutes before transitioning to another topic.
The meeting also helped teachers instructing classes such as social studies understand how Common Core blends English with their subjects.
Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said the students will use what they learn in one class to benefit another class during that grade level and it will help them transition more smoothly as they progress throughout the district buildings.
After watching the slideshow Beth Tomlinson put together about the workshop, board President Edward Szumowski asked if cross-curricular planning was what it sounded like.
"What I think when I hear cross-curricular, is the [English language arts] content will be delivering science or delivering history," Szumowski said. "The curricula are melded together."
"I liken it to saying we're taking kids to the museum," Swatt responded. "In the younger grades, the students ... might pick up little bits and pieces of how culture relates to science and how it works. As they gain more exposure to these things, their academic vocabulary builds."
The teachers said their colleagues asked on the "exit ticket" if the group can continue to meet.
"It really was a positive experience and the teachers are asking for more," said Superintendent Tomlinson about the teacher camp. "It's essential. I can't stress enough how important it is for our teachers to continue to learn the Common Core curriculum and the best thing is they're eager to do it and it's because they're learning from ... their peers. It was a huge success."
The state awarded the district about $150,000 as part of a replication grant to fund training for the instructors across the district.