Roughly 80 parents attended a workshop at East Elementary School on Oct. 8 to learn how the new Common Core State Standards would change the district's curriculum.
"I'm not worried about any of this because we've already been doing it," K-12 English faculty representative Glenda Green said. "In reading and in social studies and in science and in all areas. I'm not worried about this at all."
Green led the information session with Karen Scalzo, the K-5 writing coordinator.
The turnout by parents was considerably higher than expected, and additional chairs had to be found from other rooms and lined up along the back of the small auditorium.
"I was worried no one would come," Green said. "Wow."
The Common Core is an initiative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers intended to achieve national academic standards. It has been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. In July 2010, Connecticut adopted the standards, which go into effect this year.
"I know there's a lot of anxiety about Common Core," Green said. "Every 20 years or so there are committees that bring all the best researchers together. Common Core is all about comprehension. What these people did was start at what they wanted kids to do by the end of high school and work backward from that each year."
In early grades, she said, the Common Core will place an emphasis on reading comprehension and close reading of the text; however, she noted that both have been hallmarks of New Canaan's curriculum for years.
"The first section of the standards are key ideas and details," Green said. "These are all about what the author is saying. We want kids to understand what they're reading. None of this is new, by the way. Kids are really opinionated, as we all know. We ask them to go back and cite evidence in the test."
Green went on to say that there remain two important ways of helping children develop as readers: reading complex books to them, and allowing them time to read on their own.
One parent at the event, Maria Naughton, thought the new standards might lead to a curriculum too rigorous for kids in the youngest grades. Naughton ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Board of Education earlier this year, focusing on issues related to the Common Core.
"It's like someone took the rules of early childhood education and rearranged them," she said, explaining that kids may not be able to deal well with more complex texts until they have mentally developed further.
"Around age 6 or 7 they can be in a concrete, literal stage for years, and not until middle school can they think more abstractly. The standards are expecting more abstract thought earlier."
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