Schools gear up for new year, new learning system

Published 11:13 am Monday, August 4, 2014

A new framework for education in Mississippi is creating a shift in how educators prepare for the upcoming year.
Teachers and administrators returned to school Friday to begin professional development — something they do the week before school begins each year. What is different is the introduction of Common Core State Standards — a departure from the old Mississippi Frameworks, which was aligned with No Child Left Behind federal legislation approved more than a decade ago.
Tamikia Billings, principal of Beechwood Elementary, said she is excited about Common Core becoming the new learning system of the Vicksburg Warren School District.
She said it is a set of standards that each state uses and will set higher quality academic standards in both mathematics and literacy.
“Common Core is a set of rigorous standards in both mathematics and ELA,” Billings said. “CCSS focuses on the implementation of very strong literacy integration in each subject area. The standards are very clear and consistent and specifically define what students need to know and be able to do in order to become successful. College and career readiness, improving literacy skills, higher order thinking and communication are major components of common core.”
The Common Core standards are more rigorous than what the students have been used to, with literacy being a vital component to other courses aside from the humanities, Billings said.
“I’m excited because VWSD is a great school district and I’m excited for new beginnings,” she said.
Lana Claire Morgan is a pre-kindergarten teacher this year at Beechwood. This is her fourth year teaching at Beechwood.
However, it is her first year teaching pre-K, a program that was added to Beechwood this year. “Common Core is something that you have to unwrap piece by piece. You can’t do it all at one time. You have to understand a little bit, and then add to it…you have to start at the foundation and just build on it because I don’t think you can wrap your brain around the whole thing at once.”
With previous years teaching kindergarten under her belt, Morgan said she has a sense of comfort knowing where her students need to be by the end of the year despite not having taught pre-K before.
“I know where they need to be before kindergarten. I’ve taught kindergarten for nine years, so with my pre-K kids, I know where they need to be.”
Morgan, who will be teaching about 20 students this year, says she is ready to get started. She said she is anxious “because mine (her students) have never been anywhere before.
This is their first formal school experience and I get nervous that they aren’t going to get home or I’m going to forget to go to lunch.”

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