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Common Core State Standards mean big changes for many school districts


If parents are unfamiliar with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), or what they will mean for K-12 instruction, they are going to want to join their kids at the kitchen table and do some homework. That is because once the CCSS are fully implemented, the quality of instruction being delivered in many school districts is not all that will be changed. Everything from the number of classes students have to take to the length of the school year could also undergo an overhaul.

While most school districts still have some time before they complete the full implementation of the CCSS, changes brought on by the Common Core are already being felt in some states.

Changes to the school year
Aligning a curriculum with a whole new set of standards is no easy task, so it should come as no surprise to see school districts rethinking the academic year ahead. Queen Anne's County Pubic Schools in Maryland is one school system that will undergo schedule changes during the 2013-2014 academic year, My Eastern Shore reported.

The school year will still come to a close on June 13, 2014, but five days throughout the year will now be half days. This move, which was approved by a 3-2 vote, will provide teachers within the district a chance to prepare for the CCSS, as well as collaborate with one another and study student data.

Changes to kindergarten programs
School officials in states that have adopted the CCSS seem to be arriving at the same conclusion when it comes to their kindergarten programs. In order to successfully prepare students for their academic careers, they need to lengthen the amount of time they spend in kindergarten. This thinking has led many districts to transition from half-day kindergarten to full-day programs.

In Connecticut, Ledyard Public Schools is just one school district that will extend the amount of time kindergarteners remain at school beginning in September, The Bulletin reported. While the decision to offer all-day kindergarten will cost the school system an additional $74,000, it is essential if young learners are to meet the CCSS.

"The benchmark standards for the end of kindergarten are significantly more rigorous," Michael Graner, the district's superintendent, told the news source. "We realized we could not help all the children meet the new standards with a half-day program."

Changes to middle school education
While some school systems are only making small changes, the Oregon School District is completely reconfiguring its middle schools. According to the Toledo Blade, beginning in the 2013-2014 academic year, the School District's middle schools will be no more. Thanks to a 5-0 vote, the Eisenhower and Fassett middle schools will become an intermediate school for grades five and six, and a junior high school for grades seven and eight, respectively.

The changes will translate to benefits for the entire School District, not just those directly affected by the reconfiguration. While intermediate and junior high students will receive an additional 20 minutes of math every day, elementary pupils will be able to take advantage of an extra 20 minutes of music and physical education on a weekly basis.

"I am proud to be a part of this board, we are being proactive," said Jeff Ziviski, a member of the District's board of education, as quoted by The Press."…We are trying to get ahead of the curve so two years down the road we are not trying to scramble to explain our test scores."