Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Schools Chief Discusses Standards

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Schools Chief Discusses Standards

Article excerpt

SARASOTA COUNTY: Students are likely to see 'critical thinking' emphasized


Without the drama of major budget cuts or program shake-ups, a relatively status quo 2014-15 year begins today in Sarasota County public schools.

One of the most noticeable changes this school year -- and perhaps one of the biggest political fights in education across the country -- involves the Common Core standards. (The state tweaked the education guidelines and renamed them the Florida Standards).

School systems, including Sarasota County, have been rolling out the standards by grade level since the state first approved the switch in 2010.

But when school starts today, it will be the first time Sarasota County students in all K-12 grades are learning the standards that outline what children need to know in each grade in math and English Language arts.

Sarasota County School Superintendent Lori White met with the Herald-Tribune to talk about what parents can expect and gave advice on how to make sure their children have a good school year.

Q:What should parents expect to see in their children's homework under the new standards?

A:"Students will be exposed to more reading -- and lengthier passages -- for homework as well as during the school day. Children will see more informational texts, including historical documents and primary sources.

"We're going to be seeing more and more writing in terms of students being able to convey their thinking by writing about a problem or a situation. So not necessarily writing an essay but writing about what they think and how they work through a problem.

"You'll see more and more of that. It's a tool we're using in all of our classrooms. English Language arts, math, science and social studies and including in all electives."

Q:Will report cards look different?

A:"Report cards will traditionally be much the same but some of the tools that our teachers are using in their instruction might change. ... Our teachers are getting used to a new textbook system that is fully aligned with new standards."

Q:Students' test scores are expected to drop when the new tests roll out, because the new standards are more challenging. What do parents need to understand?

A:"These new standards really focus on students' problem solving and critical thinking. So it's not about memorizing procedures. ... What makes this different is it really requires students to use multi-steps to think through different ways of approaching a problem and, frankly, with some of those problems, even our students who feel very proficient in math might struggle as they contemplate, 'How do I approach this problem?' That could also be frustrating for parents.

"... Just understanding that sometimes, for our students to learn the most, they have to struggle and try different ways. …

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