From the super

Column: New curriculum focuses on knowledge —and its application

Kathy O'Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

Kathy O’Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

by Kathy O’Hara

Dear friends of Catholic schools,

Recently, a parent asked me what she could do to help her child be successful in school, especially now as schools move to the much talked about Common Core curriculum. Before I addressed her question, I asked her what she knew about the Common Core. I was not surprised when it became clear that she really did not know what this “new” curriculum is. I find that many share her confusion!

Very simply put, the Common Core is a set of learning standards that nearly three-fourths of the states have adopted. The Core is not so much a change in what is taught at each grade level, but rather a change in what students are expected to do with the information learned. Essentially, students will need to apply the content they learn to solve a variety of problems.

Theoretically, this is not a new expectation. We always have said that we expect students to think critically in order to solve problems. However, often we did not actually ask students to demonstrate such a skill. We typically asked “who, what, where, and when” questions on paper-and-pencil tests.

Now, in addition to the Common Core, there will be new assessments that do, indeed, ask students to apply their knowledge. Of course, as with any new undertaking as massive as this one, I am sure there will be “glitches” as it is “rolled out,” but I am excited about what this change can mean for our students. I believe that more students will be engaged and challenged and thus will be able to better develop their God-given talents.

The staff in the archdiocesan office of Catholic schools has been busy working with principals on our Common Core transition plan for the archdiocese, including how these standards should reflect our Catholic faith. From what I have seen, there is an eagerness on the part of our Catholic school educators to make this transition go well.

So what did I tell the parent about helping her child with the Common Core? What I have always said:

1. send your child to school

2. well-rested and well-nourished

3. with the understanding that God expects him/ her to do his/her best each day and that we learn from mistakes as well as “getting it right the first time”

4. and with the opportunity of having unstructured free time at home to allow his/her brain to function creatively.

I told that parent that if she concentrated on these things, our outstanding Catholic schoolteachers could take it from there.

¡Vaya con Dios!

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Kathy O'Hara

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