New York Schools build on a Common Core approach

Eleni Giannousis teaching her English Class

A math teacher, José Rios, used to take a day or two on probabilities, drawing bell-shaped curves on the blackboard to illustrate the pattern known as normal distribution. This year, he stretched the lesson by a day and had students work in groups to try to draw the same type of graphic using the heights of the 15 boys in the class.

“Eventually, they figured out they couldn’t because the sample was too small,” Mr. Rios said. “They learned that the size of the sample matters, and I didn’t have to tell them.”

In three years, instruction in most of the country could look a lot like what is going on at Hillcrest, one of 100 schools in New York City experimenting with new curriculum standards known as the common core…an ambitious set of goals that go beyond reading lists and math formulas to try to raise the bar not only on what students in every grade are expected to learn, but also on how teachers are expected to teach…

The new standards give specific goals that, by the end of the 12th grade, should prepare students for college work. Book reports will ask students to analyze, not summarize. Presentations will be graded partly on how persuasively students express their ideas. History papers will require reading from multiple sources; the goal is to get students to see how beliefs and biases can influence the way different people describe the same events…

With 3,200 students, Hillcrest is the second largest school in the city’s pilot. Its size and diversity — whites are a minority (4 percent), Muslims are the religious plurality (about 30 percent) and one-tenth of students are learning English — made it an ideal laboratory to test how the standards might work in the city, officials said…

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city’s chief academic officer, said the city plans to create an instructional package with exercises that teachers at Hillcrest and other schools have used; student work they have assigned; and guidelines for evaluating the work…He cautioned against overly optimistic expectations.

“This isn’t one of those things where you flip the switch and tomorrow, everything is going to be different,” he said.

RTFA for details, a record of these bare beginnings. Similar to what is being tried in Brockton, Massachusetts in many ways. I hope NYC finds the same level of success.

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