New Common Core curriculum brings changes to math department

Common Core is the new curriculum that is made at the national level. It was adopted by the state of Florida in 2010 and has made its way up to the high school level in 2013.

However, on Monday, Sept 23, Gov. Rick Scott reversed his stance on the nationwide curriculum and ordered the state board of education to withdraw from these national tests, and signed an executive order ending Florida’s relationship with PARCC, the makers of the Common Core curriculum.

“PARCC is the assessment tool to Common Core. Common Core is what we teach, we’re still going to teach one way, now how we’re going to assess it, might be different, might not be different,” math teacher Aglaia Christodoulides said.

Common Core is affecting all core classes, but the most major and noticeable changes are in the math department.

“Common Core is meant to set standards that will be true absolutely anywhere you go. You go from this state to Georgia, it doesn’t matter, we’re all doing the same thing. It makes it transferable,” geometry teacher Kathy Koons said.

Common Core is also much more in-depth than the previous curriculum. It covers less information, but it goes into much more detail. Students not only go over the concept, but also must apply their knowledge and show a deeper level of understanding.

“It’s not just ‘Here, solve this algebra problem,’” Koons said, “It has this application to it, so the problems will be deeper and more meaningful.”

Florida’s Common Core curriculum was divided into four stages, to ease students into the changes. Stage one fully implemented the standards for all kindergartners, and added new literacy standards for grades 6-12 in the 2011-2012 school year. Stage two added first grade to the standards, then fully implemented the literacy standards for all grade 6-12 students during the 2012-2013 school year. Florida schools are currently in stage three, which implements the mathematics standards in for grades 3-12.

California implanted the Common Core curriculum last school year. Algebra II teacher Jason McCombs taught Calculus in California in the first year of Common Core.

“I do like Common Core in terms of the way it’s requiring students to bring all their knowledge towards completing actual problems, like word problems and that sort of thing, because it’ll support the students much more better when they get into things like Calculus,” McCombs said.

Students have a deeper understanding on the material being taught to them, and tend to do better on standardized tests than those not on Common Core, and schools implementing Common Core standards rand higher nationwide.

“Students who are successful within Common Core are going to be successful with courses like Calculus,” McCombs said.

“I have a neighbor, whose granddaughter is in first grade, doing word problems already. She’s just learning to read, but they’re introducing word problems. That’s fantastic! So you start young, and build up through this, it won’t be painful,” Koons said, “But dumping it on top of high school students, that’s going to be very painful here from the beginning, it really is, it’s going to take a few years for it to shake out, I think.”

But not everyone enjoys the new standards. Some are worried that the curriculums are not being made at a local level, but at a nation level. The standards also don’t give teachers any hints about what textbooks they should use, or how to plan their lessons, they just simply give the teachers the standards. Critics also aren’t happy about the cookie-cutter approach, with everyone around the country learning the exact same things. Gov. Rick Scott’s withdrawal from PARCC is a sort of compromise, keeping the standards but getting rid of the tests.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect us too much because again, PARCC is the assessment, and, you know, if you teach well, and if you teach your students to think, they’re going to be successful on the assessment, no matter what kind of assessment you take. So whether it’s PARCC or Smarter Balance, or we go with something that Florida will come up with, I think the students will be ok, as long as the teachers keep teaching at the level that they are supposed to,” Christodoulides said.

While there are varying opinions on Common Core, it is clear that Florida is trying to improve the education we receive, and make our schools, which already rank sixth in the nation, the best learning environments possible.