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Shift underway for students and teachers in District 99

Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013 8:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, May 5, 2013 8:01 p.m. CDT

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Success depends on hard work, but today, what constitutes “hard work” isn’t as easy to define as it was in the past.

Students no longer need to memorize and recite facts and figures, which now are available instantaneously from any cellphone. Instead, students must change the way they interact with this knowledge and then put it to a higher use – and we as educators must lead the way. 

Guiding our work are the new, state-led standards including Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards, which just were finalized on April 9. These standards not only will raise the rigor of academics, but also will help students to become better problem solvers, critical thinkers, thoughtful listeners and public speakers.

Last week, our teachers from North High and South High in Downers Grove gathered to learn more about the standards and discuss samples of how the complexion of our classrooms will change.

Here is one scenario discussed that provides an instructive example; it follows a fictional student, “John”:

• “Before” new standards are implemented: In chemistry, John experiments in a lab using pressure probes to collect data in his investigation of the behavior of gases. His group investigates findings and writes a conclusion based on the data. The teacher reviews the gas laws and has the students work in groups to solve problems using the equation that was developed from their lab data. A few days later, the class takes a multiple-choice test.

• “After” new standards are implemented: During chemistry, John presents to the class about a particle model of gasses. During his presentation, he cites the evidence that he collected in his chemistry lab that supports this model and the gas laws. Other students use a common presentation rubric (i.e., an evaluation template) to give John feedback about his explanation. Later, John uses that same rubric when evaluating one of his classmate’s presentations about her recipe modifications in foods class.

As you can see, the expectations for John to keenly understand scientific concepts, communicate them clearly and think critically are crucial, not only in science, but in all of his classes. 

District 99’s approach to incorporating the standards is unique. By using common language and measures across all disciplines, from Spanish and math to social studies and art, we will improve student learning and increase connections – both in school and in life.

Gina Ziccardi is assistant superintendent for student learning at District 99

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