You may have heard the term “Common Core” in conversations with faculty and me this summer or through your own research. And you might be asking yourself, what exactly is the “Common Core”? Why is it important to Trident Academy’s students? And how will it impact teaching and learning?
Put simply, the Common Core is a nationally recognized set of standards for skills that each student should master in each grade level (I explain more below). Many top independent schools and South Carolina public schools, have already adopted the Common Core standards. Ensuring our standards are aligned with the Common Core will mean a couple very important things for our students. First, it means our students are prepared for a seamless transition to college or any other school using the Common Core. Second, using the Common Core means our students will learn the same skills as their peers at other schools, but we will still be able to use the multisensory and learning differentiated lessons that are the hallmark of Trident Academy.
The Common Core is the result of a state–led initiative, championed by the National Governors Association. Recognizing student mobility from state to state at all education levels, the creators of the Common Core sought to develop a set of grade and subject level standards that would ensure college and career readiness for all students, regardless of where their education took place. Released in the summer 2011, the Common Core has been recognized and endorsed by every leading education association including the National Education Association (NEA), College Board, ACT, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). The Core document is organized into four categories; goals (standards), methods, materials, and assessment.
While our students excite us with their success in the classroom every day, their ability to be successful outside of Trident Academy is the true mark of a job well done. Some of our students look to leave us in their middle or high school years, while others decide that college is a more appropriate jumping off point. Whatever the goal, we are all are partners in getting there. Ensuring that our curriculum is in alignment with any school our students might choose is the first step in preparing our students for their transition. We are reviewing the standards for all grade levels and subjects, and are completely confident that Trident Academy students will move seamlessly into other programs that have adopted the Common Core standards (South Carolina’s public school have adopted the standards and many local private schools are undergoing a review similar to ours).
At the outset, some private schools were understandably skeptical of this undertaking, but pleasantly impressed with the thoroughness and rigor of the standards. Those of us in educational leadership immediately recognized the competitive advantage that these standards held for supporting the value of private education. With the adoption of somewhat universal standards for curriculum (I say somewhat because no one endorses a “lock-step” agreement with the standards), the focus of any school can now be directed to delivery and assessment. And that’s where Trident has a great story to tell.
Once the standards are defined, meeting the goals for every child stems from the way we deliver those lessons in the classroom. Multi-sensory and learning differentiated lessons are the hallmark of a Trident Academy education. Our teachers are highly trained to recognize a student’s learning difference and implement a variety of strategies to help them learn. Once learned, our students take these tools with them for life.
With the burden of defining curriculum lifted, teachers can focus on understanding emerging methodologies for teaching, take advantage of research into the physiology of learning, and work collaboratively to sync lessons across the curriculum. With the curriculum standards document at hand, it is easy to track where each student is, and where the areas of challenge might lie. Finally, we now have a framework for concisely and consistently communicating this information to parents, enabling all of us to work as partners in our student’s educational journey.