September 21, 2014

Federal waiver means changes in school curriculum planning

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
Kansas schools received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law last week. That means public schools across the state, including schools in the Gardner-Edgerton and Spring Hill school districts, will be transitioning to a different curriculum over the course of the next school year.
With the waiver, Kansas schools no longer will require 100 percent proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014. Instead, all students must demonstrate academic growth each year.
“We do not believe the change will have a significant impact on how we educate students,” communications director Leann Northway said of the Gardner-Edgerton School District.
In the Spring Hill School District, school officials have been preparing for curriculum changes for the last few years. Spring Hill, along with other Kansas public schools, has adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Education, Christine Splichal, Spring Hill School District communications director explained.
The standards represent a national effort to standardize what students across the country need to learn in four core areas including math, language arts, science and social studies. Math and language arts standards have been approved by 46 states. Science and social studies standards are currently being developed.
Splichal said parents, students and staff will notice subtle changes over the next few years as the Spring Hill School District transitions to the new curriculum standards.
“Teachers will need to make adjustments and our students – especially in the area of reading – will be expected to bring it up a notch,” Splichal said.
Both districts began preparing to make changes in response to the state board of education’s request to receive a waiver from the NCLB law. All districts are to fully implement the Common Core State Standards by the start of the 2013-2014 school year.
“Our district began realigning our math and reading curriculum to the new standards as they were adopted by the Kansas Board of Education,” Northway said.
According to the Kansas Department of Education, “the standards provide clear goals for student learning in different subject areas and help teachers ensure their students have the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the future.”
The standards do not dictate what textbooks must be used or what lessons that teachers must teach.
Kindergarten through second grade curriculums in Spring Hill implemented new math standards last school year, and the district will implement changes to math curriculums for third through eighth grade students in the upcoming year. By 2013-2014, all USD 230 students will follow the CCSS math and language arts standards.
With the start of the school year just weeks away, Splichal said officials at USD 230 are trying to get information about the new curriculum out to district patrons.
“We’re really trying to start the dialogue with parents now,” she explained.
Officials recently created a page on the district web site about the new standards at www.usd230.org, although they’ve been preparing for the switch from No Child Left Behind for the last few years.
“We knew this was an effort in the making,” she said. “We as a school district have already been making preparations for the shift, which I think is imperative to doing this correctly.”

Benefits of the new standards
Now that Kansas has received a federal waiver from No Child Left Behind, schools will shift to a new curriculum, the Common Core State Standards, adopted by the Kansas State Board of Education. Set for full implementation by the 2013-2014 school year, educators say there are certain benefits to the new standards, including:

• Fewer, higher and clearer standards
• Learning is aligned with college-readiness and work expectations
• Rigorous content and students also must apply knowledge through higher level skills
• Consistent among states plus internationally benchmarked
• An established framework for 85 percent of curriculum with the additional 15 percent coming from state and local levels

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