There’s more to teaching than just having the right textbook.
And with the increasing focus on common core standards, not only in Delaware, but across the nation, teachers are joining forces to ensure that they are all on the same page with their students’ success in mind.
With the formation of the 2014 Delaware Dream Team, a collection of 34 teachers from 16 districts, local educators will work together over a year’s time to address the challenges of common core standards and attend Delaware’s TeachFest workshop in January.
“The 2014 Dream Team is both an opportunity to recognize some of the state’s most accomplished teachers and a challenge to those individuals to continue to grow, to make collaboration an integral part of their practice and to create high-quality materials that will help teachers and students across our state – and around the country – be successful,” said Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.
Of the 34 teachers selected, two were chosen from the Milford School District: math teacher Jesse Parsley and English teacher Tanya Humes, who both hope they will bring unique perspectives and challenges to the table.
Their appointment to the Dream Team includes a $500 stipend, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with Delaware teachers through the workshop and through LearnZillion, a national program that is partnering with the Delaware Department of Education to provide teachers with common core resources in math and English language arts.
Parsley, who is in his 11th year of teaching, explained that throughout the last 25 to 30 years there have been significant shifts in education and what is expected from students. What was once considered to be a standard of learning for 10th grade students is now expected to be fully comprehended by the end of eighth grade, he explained.
“The standards in the past were very broad and common core really fine tunes it,” he said. “They’re looking at going deeper and getting a deeper comprehension of the concepts. By not adjusting the standards, we wouldn’t be preparing them for the level of math needed in today’s market.”
Parsley said that he has encountered many parents, and even some teachers, who are adamantly opposed to how common core sets up expectations for what students should know by the end of each grade level, but reiterated the fact that regardless of when the knowledge is needed, it’s necessary to adopt a common standard not only within the state, but across the country.
“A lot [of people] are against common core, but it’s because they don’t know there have been at least three different standards in at least the last 11 years,” he said. “Every four to five years it’s tweaked to a different level as we identify the needs of the students.”
Page 2 of 2 - Although it’s not just about the materials used in learning, but rather the concepts and how they are applied and measured, there is also a need for updated texts, Parsley said. He said that Milford High School’s math textbooks are about eight years old, and hopes that the district will find the funding to replace them with updated materials.
“Eight-year-old math books don’t match the current standards. [A unified standard will] force everybody to step up,” he said. “Developing a new curriculum would energize everyone in the building. It will require every teacher to change.”
While there is a push for uniformity in educational standards, both Parsley and Humes explained that common core doesn’t mean that every math or English teacher needs to teach the same exact material, but rather the concepts should be taught at the same grade level to ensure that students who might transfer from one district to another, or even one state to another, aren’t experiencing gaps in their education.
“It’s not that everyone has to teach the same book and stories, it’s that we’re teaching the same concepts and skills,” Humes said. “[Educators] can keep their individual strengths. Common core isn’t intended to address the gaps present, but the gaps that might be.”
She said that the rigor of following common core standards will allow students to learn concepts, and build on those in a layered fashion throughout the grade levels so that by the time they are ready to graduate, they should be able to delve deeply into a subject, whether it is math, reading, writing or any other subject.
“Every year we get deeper with what they’re required to know,” she said. “We just need to be on the same page.”
Humes, who is in her fourth year of teaching with Milford School District, said she was shocked at her appointment to the Dream Team since she still considers herself a rookie, and looks forward to working with veteran teachers.
“I just want to learn from veteran teachers. I want to have a voice where common core is going to go,” she said. “Working with peers from other schools is productive, satisfying and inspiring. When we bring back these things to our peers, we want it to be useful in their classrooms. It should make it easier on the teachers, if they’re willing to make the shift.”