Loree Gerboth: Why you can feel good about supporting Nevada standards
The Nevada Academic Content Standards are the standards used to teach most subjects in Nevada. The Math and English Language Arts standards are based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that have been widely adopted across the U.S. I want to tell you why these standards are good for Nevada’s children.
In the 16 years I’ve been an educator, we have always had academic goals (also known as standards). Unfortunately, our Washoe County standards didn’t match Clark County’s or Lyon County’s, let alone those of other states. If a student moved out of Washoe, there was a good chance she/he was not adequately prepared for the next grade as taught in the new place. With the Common Core, though the curriculum will be different from place to place, the goals will be the same.
Tesla is coming, and that’s not all. All the technology that will support Tesla is coming. The children of Tesla’s employees are coming, too. Our children deserve a chance to compete for these jobs. In Nevada, 55 percent of students entering Nevada’s system of higher education aren’t ready for college and need to take remedial classes.
Previously in Nevada, our standards were like a checklist of skills that we could cover. “One standard a week” was a common idea. Speed through a math worksheet, the faster the better. Read all about the ocean and write about why you like it. While these standards aren’t bad, they didn’t prepare our students for taking rewarding, complex jobs in the 21st century and they didn’t prepare them for college.
Now, in English Language Arts, the standards ask students to “comprehend and evaluate complex text;” and to “value evidence.” Whether reading Shakespeare or the manual for your new appliance, these skills apply. When entering college, being able to read a piece of literature full of symbolism, or being able to read the Engineering text will require being confident in reading complex text and being able to pull out evidence when writing for a professor.
In math, the standards ask students to “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.” In my view, these are life skills, not just math standards. Students are asked to explain their thinking. Imagine your daughters or sons starting out in their new careers. The supervisor asks, “How did you come up with that?” One employee says, “I don’t know. It just made sense.” The other employee says, “I thought about that new part we’re trying to make, and re-drew the blueprints with a .06 percent decrease in width and came up with this solution.” It’s easy to see how being able to effectively communicate thinking leads to success.
What does all this look like, then, for first graders? How do they explain their thinking just as they must as adults? Come into the classroom and watch a six-year-old saying, “Well you had 10 cookies and you got 4 more. And I know a ten and 4 ones makes 14.” Then the next student says, “I grabbed 10 (imaginary) cookies in my hand and counted up four more. That’s 14.” The thrilling part is each student looks at the other and grins, realizing that either way works and that they have both learned something new.
Story time also takes on new meaning. After reading The Ugly Duckling (Yes! We still read literature!) students discuss the question, “What did the Ugly Duckling have to do to realize he wasn’t ugly?” Students talked with each other to say, “He found joy in swimming.” “He learned how to fly.” “He had to know about his talents.”
Parents want their children to succeed. By teaching children to persevere and learning that problems can have more than one solution, we are providing Nevada children with tools that will prepare them for success in a way we never have before. That’s something we can all feel good about.
Loree Gerboth is a Washoe County School District first grade teacher.