Schools prepare curriculum for ‘common core’ standards
Ryan Levin, a seventh-grade language-arts teacher at Old Orchard Junior High School, passes out textbooks for the coming school year in this 2011 file photo. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 10, 2012 1:57AM
SKOKIE — At Niles Township District 219’s Niles North and Niles West high schools, curriculum adjustments were made to math, English and social-studies courses starting last year.
District 219 administrators are now planning to meet new curriculum standards for science courses, as well. The set of “common core” science standards, known as the “next generation standards,” are expected to be adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education sometime in December, reported Anne Roloff assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at District 219.
“Right now the science standards are still in draft form, so we’re just starting to learn about those right now,” Roloff said.
Though schools can choose when and how to change their classroom curriculum to meet the “common core” standards, District 219 administrators are under pressure to make sure the 4,800 students the two high schools serve are prepared for the PARCC testing, which will test on “common core” knowledge beginning in two years.
PARCC exams will replace the age-old state-mandated Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), which covers reading and math in Grades 3 through 8 and science in Grades 4 and 7. The new testing system will also replace the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), which measures the achievement of 11th-grade students in reading, math and science.
ISBE officials have suggested teachers use the current Illinois Learning Standards as the guideline for prepping students for 2012 testing, but also said some items previously developed for the ISAT and the PSAE align or partially align with the “common core standards.”
For the current school year and the 2013-14 school year, the ISAT and PSAE will not include any new items written specifically to the “common core” standards, according to ISBE’s website.
As public K-12 schools across the nation begin making changes to accommodate the new curriculum, the degree of adjustments needed vary by school.
At District 219, only minimal changes had to be made to literature and math courses, which Roloff said are already designed to be focused on ACT testing and college readiness.
“There have been some adjustments made to incorporate the “common core” standards into English, social studies and math, but our current standards are overall highly aligned,” Roloff said. “High schools are already in a pretty good position to make the switch, compared to other schools.”
Junior highs and elementary schools, less-college-focused than high schools, have also had to make changes in preparation for the new testing.
District 74 in Lincolnwood is one of nine elementary/junior high school districts in Lincolnwood, Skokie and parts of Morton Grove and Niles that feed into District 219 high schools.
To respond to the curriculum changes, the “Niles Township Curriculum Council Committee” (NTCCC) was formed with all the feeder districts to benchmark proficiency standards by grade level.
“Math has required more of a realignment than other classes like English because Illinois’ math standards are a bit off from the ‘common core’ material,” said Kim Nasshan, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for District 74. “In comparison to the Illinois standards, the new curriculum is more rigorous because we’re trying to shift toward making a more real-life connection.”