Common Core Principal Letter
posted on September 10, 2014
Dear Harvest Park Families,
We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to help your students reach their full potential this year while fully implementing Common Core State Standards. This summer our staff spent time thinking through the question: As our students work their way ever closer toward middle school completion and onward to high school, what knowledge and skills will they need to be ready for the next step in their lives? California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards inspired this inquiry because these updated learning goals are guiding schools toward preparing all students to be ready to move on to college or into a satisfying career when they graduate.
The answer we came to, after many discussions involving teachers, support staff, administrators, and families, is that Common Core is inviting us to rethink the way we teach, and that’s a good thing.
We live in a constantly changing world, saturated with information and new ideas. Today’s students are on an information journey – and they need the kinds of experiences that let them “get their hands on the wheel.” Just as new drivers can only learn so much from the passenger seat, students grappling with ideas in literature, math, science, history, and other subjects need direct experience and plenty of time to practice making use of concepts. That kind of learning, like learning to drive in a parking lot, involves opportunities to experiment and make mistakes in the safety of the classroom, with supportive and experienced teachers by their side, setting new challenges as students are ready.
That’s what learning at Harvest Park is going to look like this year – students working with ideas in more involved ways – finding, accessing, evaluating, and creating knowledge. Our students are familiar with this kind of relevant, applied teaching, and in the past we have seen them thrive when they’ve had a chance to drive their own learning. We are excited to do this kind of teaching more often, especially in English language arts and math courses. The signs of students getting their hands on the wheel of learning might be with math problems that involve more than one way to get to the answer, or ask students to explain the mental map they used to arrive. Or, you might notice that when students are reading a novel, they might also read non- fiction text that explains the historical period of the setting. These are just two examples of how students will be asked to think more deeply and make connections between academic content and the world beyond the school walls.
You, like our teachers, are students’ “driving instructors,” too. You have a critical role to play in providing our students with opportunities to learn and explore, giving them feedback on what’s working and what’s not, and encouraging their persistence both when they succeed and when they make mistakes. Making sure that our young people can handle their role in the “driver’s seat” of learning is a team effort – and we need you in this process. We look forward to another year of working together to build a bright future for Harvest Park students – and for all in our community.