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Watervliets transition to the Common Core Learning Standards  

picture of grade 6 teachers presenting at NYSCOSS

Watervliet grade 6 teachers shared their experiences with the transition to the Common Core Learning Standards with school leaders and educators during the New York State Council of School Superintendents Winter Conference in March.

At NYSEDs invitation, Watervliet teachers present on Common Core at state conference

 Whatever it takes. That is the mindset of Watervliet Elementary School teachers when it comes to providing students the tools and inspiration to be successful learners as the transition to the state’s Common Core Learning Standards moves forward.

Despite the media attention that continues to swirl around the new learning standards, Watervliet’s teachers have quietly and persistently worked toward fully implementing the standards.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, especially by New York State Education Department officials like Deputy Commissioner Ken Slentz, who invited Watervliet administrators and teachers to share their journey to the Common Core with school leaders and educators from across the state during the New York State Council of School Superintendents Winter Conference in Albany on March 3. View photo gallery

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lori Caplan, Principal Terri O’Brien and a team of grade 6 teachers, including Andrea DeLollo, Lauryn Lloyd, Don Stevens, Kim Tallmadge and special education teacher MaryPat Murtagh, discussed the experiences—the successes and the challenges—that have occurred in their classrooms as a result of the Common Core.

The presentation, called “Journey to the Common Core: Successes and Lessons Learned,” began with Dr. Caplan’s district level overview of the implementation process related to Board of Education goals, professional development, educational partnerships, district demographics and the teaching and learning environment.

Principal O’Brien offered a building-level perspective on the implementation from the groundwork involved in creating an awareness and understanding the new learning standards, exploring the instructional shifts through professional development and turnkey trainings, utilize benchmark and progress monitoring, and analyzing data to inform and improve instruction and regularly update resources to meet the needs of students.

The heart of the presentation though belonged to the sixth-grade teachers who addressed several key themes in the transition to the Common Core and the lessons learned along the way.

Watervliet educators spoke about the need to understand the Common Core; the benefits of team collaboration and sharing of instructional strategies; the ability to respond to students’ needs through differentiated instruction; the value of student engagement in learning; and the importance of communicating with parents.

Mrs. DeLollo discussed the shift in the classroom paradigm as the teacher becomes more a facilitator, which empowers students to discover, collaborate, learn from each other—and yes, even struggle.

“I tell my students that struggle is OK, that it is important to the learning process,” she said. “Seeing my students make the shift from student to teacher has been awesome. They are taking ownership for their own learning and are thriving in this environment.”

The teachers also acknowledged the challenges along the way, most notably the feeling that there is not enough time to review and reflect. Other challenges included addressing the gaps that inevitably exist for some students and parent anxiety.

“When parents see their child struggling with homework, and then can’t help because they aren’t familiar with the new instructional strategies, it’s understandably frustrating for them,” Ms. Lloyd said.

That is why, she pointed out, it is so important for parents and educators to work together and keep the lines of communications open.

Watervliet teachers do just that by encouraging parents to contact them via email or telephone about any concerns they have. Both schools also have offered Math Nights and Literacy Nights to provide parents with information and strategies for helping their students with homework assignments.

“I’m really proud of the work that all of our teachers have accomplished so far and are continuing to do every day,” Dr. Caplan said. “They have embraced the Common Core and it is evident the minute you enter their classrooms.”