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Education Committee 11/7/12

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 A. Preliminary Information:

B. Summary of Meeting:

This month’s education committee meeting consisted of two main agenda items:

  1. Common Core State Standards and PPS Curriculum
  2. Keystone Exams

Both items were presented by Dr. Jerri Lippert, Deb Friss, and Allison McCarthy.

(1) Common Core State Standards and PPS Curriculum

Pennsylvania is among 48 other states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, this will result in a major shift in how and what students learn in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) prepare students through fewer, clearer, and higher standards; therefore, its not about having students do MORE, but ensuring students have a mastery understanding of the knowledge and skills needed to be successful. The CCSS were developed in collaboration with teachers, schools admins, and content experts in English/Language Arts and Mathematics to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our students for the rigors of college and the work force.

The CCSS shifts the focus from what teachers are doing to assessing what our students are doing.

How the CCSS will impact the current PPS Curriculum: we currently have a strong foundation, however there are gaps that need to be filled; this is more of a resource/content gap than theory or how content/theory should be delivered.

Things our curriculum currently lacks: focus on informational texts, strategies to deepen reading comprehension and text independence in core classes, writing across all content areas (science, math, social studies, etc), and argumentative writing.

Pittsburgh Public Schools plans to have K-12 literacy and math curriculums fully aligned to CCSS BY 2014, with many grades fully aligned before then (certain grade level curriculums need more revision than others to align to the new standards).

The approach for implementation has been a deliberate focus on building capacity (i.e. engaging teachers in the process of writing curriculum and assessments, teacher professional learning, principal leadership, etc).

Questions from the Board:

1. There are children struggling in school now. How will they do when they make classes/content more rigorous (K-5 graders)?

  • US education performance is decreasing and it is not us getting worse, but other countries getting better, faster. These countries pick important topics and teach in depth rather than trying to cover too much material. As such, we hope to teach material rather than cover material.

2.Can we incorporate a separate writing class that teaches the fundamentals of writing. Other school districts do this, why can’t we? Why will our writing courses be imbedded?

  • Students will learn different types of writing embedded in their different classes (i.e. scientific writing in science class, historian writing in social studies, on top of the writing in their English literature classes).

3. What grade is mulitplication learned? Imperative children have a fundamental understanding or they will struggle through math the rest of the way through school.

  • Grade 2 or 3. The CCSS increasing complexity in the classroom means ensuring mastery of topic than moving on, rather than spending additional class time going back through lessons the students previously learned.

(2) Keystone Exams

Starting this year, the state will begin to transition from PSSA exams to Keystone Exams, impacting grades 8-12. Keystones are similar to the PSSA; however, the Keystone exams are based on the Common Core Curriculum State Standards, while the PSSAs are based on the Pennsylvania Academic Content Standards.

Keystone Exams are end-of-course exams designed to assess how much students know in specific content areas.

  • They are standardized tests that all students will take
  • Mostly multiple choice
  • Students can take them more than once
  • Like the PSSA, they are scored on an Advanced (4), Proficient (3), Basic (2), and Below Basic (1) scale

**Current 12th graders’ Graduation Requirements do not include the Keystone exams-they will still take the PSSA exam. However, current 8th-11th graders’ Graduation requirements will include Algebra and Literature Keystone exams. (Although the Biology keystone is not a requirement to graduate for 9-11th graders, students will take it at least once).

Students have multiple opportunities to take and pass the Keystones. Once they pass, they do not need to take it again. If students do not demonstrate proficiency on a Keystone, they will have an opportunity to meet this requirement through a course or project.

Questions from the Board

 **will need to fill this in from other assessments, had to leave early

 C. Reflecting on the Meeting:

Examples of Good Governance Practices:

  1. (Focus and Mission): Hazuda and Holley concerned with children already behind or struggling in classes and how they will manage when courses become more rigorous. Also concerned with what happens to children who fail.
  2. (Focus and Mission): Holley, Sumpter, and Shealey reiterating the necessity of all students knowing how to write well. Similarly, Fink concerned with all students knowing the fundamentals of math before moving on to more complex lessons.

Implications of Agenda Items for Educational Equity:

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Keystone exams based of the CCSS prepare all Pittsburgh Public school students through fewer, clearer, and higher standards; therefore, reducing the amount of information students learn and really focusing and teaching in-depth in those areas that contain the information and skills needed to be successful both in college and the workforce.

That being said, more rigorous classes may necessitate more individual support for students in order to succeed.