Spring Brings with it a Test of the Education System

Middle School math and science teacher Becky Sommer coaches students.
Middle School math and science teacher Becky Sommer coaches students.
ALBANY, N.Y. - March 27, 2015 - PRLog -- One of the things that now comes with Spring every year in New York State – in addition to the tulips and forsythia bushes – is a set of New York State tests that Our Savior’s Lutheran School and many other schools administer to students in grades three through eight across the state, the same tests that are now based on a new set of national education standards – the Common Core standards.

Our Savior’s Lutheran School (OSL), a K to 8 school in Albany, NY, is a private school but has always used the New York State standards and tests as a guide for its own standards and curriculum. And they’re continuing to do that using the national Common Core standards along with the tests developed by New York State and to some extent the curriculum, Engage NY, which is available to all New York State schools.

There’s been a lot of press about both the standards and the tests but at Our Savior’s Lutheran School the introduction of both has been mostly positive from the teachers’ point of view.

“In my opinion, the Common Core standards are written more clearly,” said Jessica Lamson, who teaches third grade at Our Savior’s Lutheran School (OSL). “I felt the old New York standards were vague. It could be confusing – progressing from grade to grade. I like the wording of the Common Core standards. It really lets me know what I should focus on.” To view the Common Core math standards, visit http://www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/Math_Stan....)

Singapore Math

In order to meet the new standards, OSL adopted a new math curriculum, Singapore Math, which is more closely aligned with the national Common Core standards and integrates more real world learning.

“It does demand more from the students cognitively,” said Lamson. “I’ve noticed a clear difference from last year to this year. Last year’s class was the first year the students had this curriculum and this way of thinking about math was difficult. This year was better and we were able to move more quickly through things. They started thinking right away about numbers in groups of ten, decomposing numbers, breaking them into parts.”

Becky Sommer teaches middle school science and math at Our Savior’s Lutheran, including ninth grade algebra for advanced eighth graders and is also entering year two with Singapore Math as a curriculum.

“Math hasn’t changed as a subject,” Sommer said.  “The Common Core has just taken the standards that students have been learning for decades and it has grouped them together so that it’s not a sporadic learning of content; you’re learning a certain skill and you are using that and seeing how it fits the real world math picture.”

Both teachers agree, the national standards are more rigorous but the students are up to it.

STEM Model

“Aspects of technology have been added. We’re trying to follow a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) model of learning, where you’re bringing in and showing how technology, and science and math and engineering link together,” Sommers said.

And there is more writing, according to Lamson. She is using the Engage NY modules developed by New York State for English Language Arts and “the students have to do a lot of writing, and they’ve grown so much this year,” she said. (To view grade three ELA lessons from Engage NY, visit https://www.engageny.org/resource/grade-3-english-languag....)

The standardized tests that are aligned with the national standards are given in April over three days for 90 minutes each day, one week for English Language Arts and the next week for math. (Exact dates: Tuesday, April 14 -Thursday, April 16 3 – 8 NYS English Language Arts Wednesday, April 22- Friday, April 24 3 – 8 NYS Mathematics

As important as the tests are for measuring how well students – and teachers – are doing with the curriculum and if they’re meeting standards, teachers don’t make mention of it regularly.

“It shouldn’t be the focus of their education anyway,” Lamson said. “It’s not really a measure of them. It’s a measure of me. So I don’t start saying a month before, ‘Okay, now we’re getting ready for the test.’ Everything we’re doing all year is hopefully getting us ready for the test.”

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