By Ryan Haggerty, Chicago Tribune reporter
9:49 AM PST, February 19, 2013
A big change is coming to Plainfield public schools next academic year, and district officials want to make sure students — and their parents — are ready for it.
Starting next fall, Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202's curriculum will be tailored to match the Common Core State Standards, a set of national educational standards adopted by Illinois and 44 other states.
The Common Core standards will eventually replace Illinois' current standards in math, English language arts, science and social studies, and will likely cause many students' standardized test scores and grades to drop at first, district officials said.
In a letter on District 202's website, Superintendent John Harper called the new standards "the largest education reform to happen in decades."
"Our teachers already do a wonderful job preparing students for life after high school, but the new learning standards will help us to equip students even more with strong skills to be life-long competent learners," Harper wrote.
Still, district officials said they expect the transition to the new standards to be tough on many students at first. Some students who usually bring home As on their report cards might see some unexpected Bs and Cs early next year, making for some difficult conversations at home.
In an effort to explain the changes and eliminate confusion, the district was scheduled to hold the first of four informational meetings about the new standards Tuesday evening at Drauden Point Middle School.
The other meetings will be held March 12 at 7 p.m. at Heritage Grove Middle School, March 19 at 6:30 p.m. at John F. Kennedy Middle School, and April 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Indian Trail Middle School.
Tuesday's meeting was expected to be recorded and posted on the district's website so people who could not attend can view it, district spokesman Tom Hernandez said.
"There is a lot to it, and we have been beating this drum since the beginning of the school year and will be continuing to do so," Hernandez said. "The standards are harder, they're deeper. We fully expect there are going to be some learning gaps (during) the transition."
District 202 will implement the new math standards next school year, Hernandez said. The English language arts standards will be implemented in the 2014-15 school year, the same year new state standardized tests for math and English will be unveiled.
District 202 officials have already realigned the district's math curriculum to match up with the new standards and are now working on the language arts curriculum, Hernandez said.
The new standards are considered more challenging than Illinois' current standards and will prompt some changes in the materials taught in each grade, according to the district.
For example, elementary students will now be taught basic geometry and some upper-grade math concepts. Middle school students will be taught more algebra and geometry, and high school students will be taught more about statistics, according to the district.
The new standards place more emphasis on critical thinking and analytical skills instead of rote memorization, Hernandez said. The district will be working with teachers to help them prepare for the changes, he said.
"It's not just a matter of teaching something different," Hernandez said. "Our teachers are also going to have to teach differently."
More information about the new standards is available at http://www.psd202.org/commoncore/
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