A new standard | Local teachers prepare for changes

Anne Steindorf has taught math in three different states and she’s always amazed at the contrast.

Anne Steindorf has taught math in three different states and she’s always amazed at the contrast.

“Kids are in different places in different states,” she said.

A seventh-grade math and geometry teacher at Inglewood Middle School in Sammamish, Steindorf said she’s looking forward to the changes the Lake Washington School District and all schools across the state are making for the 2013-14 academic year. The Common Core State Standards will replace current Washington state standards for English language arts and mathematics with the goal of better preparing students for college and to compete in a global economy.

“I think the aim of Common Core is a good one, to make education in this country rigorous enough for all kids to be where they need to be to be successful in college and the work place,” said Steindorf who has also taught in New York and Texas.

Until now, all 50 states had their own set of learning expectations for students. They were difficult to compare to one another, let alone the rest of the world. As of this year, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Full implementation, including new state standardized tests, will be complete by the 2014-15 school year.

“It’s still going to be a while before it all settles out, but this is sort of that pivot point where we’ve gone to talking about it,” said Kathryn Reith, Lake Washington School District spokeswoman.

A video describing Common Core compares the program to a staircase with stops along the way where parents and teachers can make sure all children are on the same page before moving on to the next level.

Steindorf said she and the rest of the Inglewood math department started preparing for the changes last year. She said there won’t be many changes for their department because many of the curriculums already align with Common Core, but it will vary from subject to subject and grade to grade.

“We’ve all had to say, ‘We’re not going to do this based on Common Core, or it becomes an enrichment piece if we have time,’” Steindorf said.

Pierina Austin teaches Kindergarten through Second Grade Continuous Learning at Sammamish’s Margaret Mead Elementary. She said the focus of her courses now will shift to more nonfiction reading — nearly a 50/50 split.

“There’s a lot more that we’re going to be learning and a lot more that were going to be implementing,” she said, noting there will be a heavy emphasis on understanding habitats around the world.

Kids also will use technology to obtain new information — something Austin said she implemented for the first time last year when students got to Skype with someone at Microsoft to better understand their studies.

Reith said many teachers in the LWSD like Steindorf and Austin started preparing themselves for the changes last year. Another 250 did study work over the summer. The changes impact math and language arts teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade. She said a lot of districts, including the LWSD, have held off on communication about the new standards because they were still learning about them.

“I think by October most parents in our district will have heard of it and by the end of the year people should be pretty comfortable with it,” she said.

Steindorf said she doesn’t feel handcuffed by the new standards and looks forward to watching it all play out.

“If everybody’s teaching to the same level across the country … if we all have the same goal, how could it not be better?” she asked.