Joliet-area schools gird for new standards
From Staff Reports February 13, 2013 10:00PM
Updated: March 15, 2013 1:23PM
Imagine sitting down to help your 9-year-old kid with math and finding yourself dealing with algebra and geometry,
That’s the sort of change some school officials say will come with what’s called the Common Core Standards.
The new standards are being set by the federal government and will change the way students are taught and tested, said Tom Hernandez, director of community relations for the Plainfield School District.
“The usual parent experience of, ‘I forgot how to do that algebra,’ will happen a lot earlier,” Hernandez said.
The Plainfield district has scheduled four community meetings to talk about the impact of the Common Core Standards with parents. The first is 7 p.m. Tuesday at Drauden Point Middle School. The school district is going to record the meeting and put it on their web site hoping to spread the word about the Common Core Standards.
It’s that important, Hernandez said.
“This is going to be one of the most significant changes in public education probably in the last 10 to 15 years, certainly since No Child Left Behind,” Hernandez said.
Besides bracing parents for more challenging math problems at earlier ages, schools also want to get out the word that standardized test scores will drop with the new standards.
At Chaney-Monge School in Crest Hill, the numbers of students meeting standards will fall more than 20 percent and that’s typical of what will happen statewide, said Superintendent Andy Siegfried.
That will come as a shock to many parents if they don’t understand the new scoring system that will be much more rigorous than what’s used now with the Illinois Standard Achievement Test, Siegfried said.
“If a parent doesn’t understand it all, he’s going to say, ‘What happened last year?’” Siegfried said.
Over time, Siegfried said, schools will adjust, test scores will improve, and the new system should be better than what’s in place now.
“It’s going to be more focused on what we expect students to learn in each grade,” he said.
The new standards won’t change much of what teachers are doing in classrooms in Minooka grade schools, said Superintendent Al Gegenheimer, where students test in the top 21 percent in the state.
It’s more of a public relations problem, he said.
“All schools are going to look like they scored better with the old cut scores as compared to the new cut scores,” Gegenheimer said.
That, and a potential budget drain. Gegenheimer said the new test comes with technology requirements that could financially strain school districts if they need to upgrade.
“We’re going to continue to serve our kids,” he said. “We’re going to do the best we possibly can. Our goal is that every one of our students is going to meet or exceed the standards. That’s our goal every year.”
In the Joliet Grade School District, an article in the Parent Outlook magazine will explain that the ISAT standards are being raised. If a student does not meet or exceed standards, it will not necessarily mean that student’s performance is declining; instead, the higher expectations could be the factor, said Sandy Zalewski, district spokeswoman. Parents should look for the magazine in March.
The district is preparing for Common Core State Standards that will begin in the 2014-15 school year, Zalewski said.
Herald-News reporters Bob Okon, Tony Graf and Janet Lundquist contributed.