On Tuesday morning, instructional coach Kaye Walden stood before a room of 16 kindergarten teachers and took a poll.
She wanted to know – on a scale of one to five – how well they grasped the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards that teachers across the state will implement next school year.
Fingers hesitantly went into the air. The majority showed ones or twos. One waved three.
The room shared a nervous laugh.
“That’s OK because learning should always be a process,” Walden said later. “Teachers are always adding to their knowledge, and I hope we never finish learning.”
About 300 math teachers from across Georgia have come to Cross Creek High School this week for a three-day training on the new curriculum standards launching in the 2012-13 school year. The training is unpaid and not required,
but it is a useful boost as teachers transition into a more in-depth method of instruction.
“Anything we can do to improve our craft as teachers, we’ll do,” said Kenisha Davis, a seventh-grade math teacher at Pine Hills Middle School.
The Summer Mathematics Academy at Cross Creek is one of eight the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Georgia Department of Education are holding across the state.
Georgia is one of 47 states converting to the Common Core standards. The idea is to create a consistent curriculum for math and English/language arts across the country, said Peggy Pool, the director of the summer academy and vice president of regional services for the math teachers council.
In 2005, Georgia phased out the long-time Quality Core Curriculum and replaced it with the Georgia Performance Standards. The QCC was too broad, with an overload of content topics and “absolutely no depth,” Pool said.
The GPS made instruction more focused, but around 2010, the National Governors Association decided the country needed a more consistent curriculum so students in Massachusetts could be compared to those in Georgia, Pool said.
School districts have been charged to make sure teachers understand how instruction will change next year.
Walden said the difference is not so much in content as in strategy.
She put it like this: Before, students were taught fractions in the first or second grade. Under the new Common Core, fractions will be saved until third grade. As preparation, pupils will now learn concepts related to fractions in first and second grades, such as figuring out whether two pieces are equal from an apple that’s been cut in half.
“So now by the time a child gets to third grade, they’ve got the concept, so the solution will come more naturally,” Walden said.
Teachers in Richmond County had some training before this workshop. The county’s school system has held training sessions for all grade levels and given teachers study materials to learn the standards, Math Coordinator Shelly Allen said.
Allen has confidence that teachers will pick up the standards smoothly. She said a big difference will be the grades in
which different concepts are taught and how many standards are in each grade level.
As far as giving up three days of summer to sit in a classroom and talk about math, many teachers Tuesday said it wasn’t a chore.
“This is new to us, so we’re all trying to get it down right,” said T. W. Josey Comprehensive High School teacher Sam Miller. “Some students just don’t like math, some fear it. So we have to be there to help.”