Lafayette teachers learning ‘Common Core’ standards

Back-to-school preparations for Lafayette Parish teachers this year include building new lesson plans shaped around more rigorous curriculum known as the Common Core State Standards.

Full implementation of the Common Core takes effect in the coming school year as Louisiana joins 44 other states in adopting the more rigorous standards with standardized benchmarks of what students should learn and know in school.

This summer, schools started their own training sessions on the curriculum changes and the district will offer both optional and mandatory sessions on the Common Core in August, said Phyllis Landry, Lafayette Parish School System, director of academics.

The new curriculum standards are a “major shift” compared with previous grade level expectations, Landry said. Students will read more nonfiction and reading will be more of a focus across different subject areas, Landry said.

Though the state is only implementing the standards this year in math and English language arts, teachers are expected to implement the new strategies, which focus on reading and writing skills in science and social studies lessons, as well, she said.

“We’re seeing that shift, where students in science and math classes will do more writing and explain why or how they came to that answer,” Landry said.

District-led training on the curriculum changes are scheduled closer to Aug. 14, when students return to the classroom.

An optional training day on Aug. 5 with mandatory Common Core training on Aug. 12 for elementary school teachers and on Aug. 13 for middle and high school teachers. On those two days before the start of school, school-led training will be held when the school teachers are not attending the scheduled district-led sessions, Landry said.

Continued training on the Common Core is planned throughout the school year on Sept. 27 and Oct. 29.

The Louisiana Department of Education has provided some training to “teacher leaders” to help their respective districts understand and implement the changes. The state has also provided online resources, such as model lesson plans, aligned with the new Common Core standards.

Landry said the district is in the process of developing additional support materials for its teachers, such as pacing guides to ensure content is covered in time for students to take scheduled benchmark tests. The common assessments —or tests — to gauge student knowledge before and after unit lessons are also under development, she said.