How Common Core math is affecting Pulaski students

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01/29/2014 8:00 AM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Pulaski Street School assistant principal Stephen Hudson giving a presentation about Common Core math that's being implemented in fifth and sixth grades.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Pulaski Street School assistant principal Stephen Hudson giving a presentation about Common Core math that’s being implemented in fifth and sixth grades.

Riverhead School District’s fifth and sixth graders are learning how to compute math equations quickly in their heads and are outlining the process of working through a math problem before solving it under new Common Core curriculum.

Pulaski Street assistant principal Stephen Hudson gave a presentation during Tuesday’s regular school board meeting about how the district is implementing new rigorous math mandated by the state.

One lesson plan is known as “sprinting,” in which students are asked to answer as many multiplication or division equations within a minute.

“If we don’t have fluency in the core skills — like multi-multiplication, like multi-division — comprehension can become difficult,” he said.

Mr. Hudson then played a video of a recent spiriting lesson, in which the class applauded the student that got the most answers correct. Students that improved the most are also congratulated after the lessons, he added.

As for solving math word problems, Mr. Hudson said teachers are working collaboratively across subjects and grade levels. For example, students are using the “close” reading skill they learned in English and applying it to math.

Close reading involves students carefully rereading text to fully understand the meaning and requiring the students to precisely attribute where they found their answers.

Mr. Hudson also explained how students are outlining the process of solving a word problem in math before attempting to solve it. An emphasis in achieving Common Core standards, he said, is for students to show how they solved a math problem, as opposed to solely providing the correct answer.

“Students need to read, to plan, to solve and to check,” Mr. Hudson said.

Parent Yolanda Thompson said during the public comment portion of the meeting that she’s concerned about students from low-income families and students with disabilities falling behind under the new academic standards.

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by most states across the country and aim to better prepare students for college and careers by requiring instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

After New York adopted Common Core, the state published lesson plans teachers can use to help students achieve the new standards. The state doesn’t mandate use of these lesson plans, but they are available online at engageny.org.

Superintendent Nancy Carney agreed the modules themselves lack a plan to differentiate lessons for those students, including English Language Learners, but said she believes the role of individualizing learning belongs to teachers.

“That’s where good teaching comes in,” Ms. Carney said. “The differentiation definitely needs to be addressed … We’re trying to find a balance in trying to increase the rigor and figuring out how can we modify based on where students are at.”

[Click the following links for a recap of previous coverage: Principals David Enos and Thomas Payton's presentation on kindergarten through second grade; Principal Phil Kent and school literacy coach Vanessa Williams's presentation on third grade; Principal Debra Rodgers' presentation on fourth grade; Pulaski Street School principal Dave Densieski and literacy coach Amy Brennan's presentation on ELA for fifth and sixth graders]

MARCHING BAND UNIFORMS UNVEILED

Riverhead School District administrators also unveiled the high school’s new marching band uniforms.

Assistant superintendents Sam Schneider, left, and David Wicks unveiling the new marching band uniforms.

Assistant superintendents Sam Schneider, left, and David Wicks unveiling the new marching band uniforms.

The school board approved the purchase during its last meeting on Jan. 14. Ms. Careny said the $47,000 cost for the uniforms doesn’t include maintenance.

The marching band is scheduled to receive its uniforms in September.

LIBRARY RIBBON-CUTTING CEREMONY PLANNED

The district is preparing a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the new high school library, Ms. Carney said.

The space has transformed into a state-of-the-art media center that includes computer spaces and study nooks, Ms. Carney has said.

The projects are part of the $78.3 million voter-approved bond project.

At the high school, the auditorium has been renovated and construction to the large group instruction room, known as the LGI room, is near completion, the superintendent said.

Ms. Carney said a ribbon-cutting date hasn’t been set yet, but anticipates the event will take place in about a week.

jennifer@timesreview.com

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