What to teach? So many options
Alrite, so we are going to help students learn, practice and understand Math and English as it should be. Pay equal focus on both Math and English and not be biased towards Math. Have everything in a gaming environment to engage them. Got it. Now what.
Well, I had sleepless nights the past few weeks figuring out what should be the benchmark to teach Math and English. 50 states – 50 different curriculums – 50 ways of teaching. What is the best way to teach? What should be PracTutor’s curriculum? It definitely cannot be the 51^{st} way of teaching or 51^{st} different curriculum because if we do so considering that we are the champions and everyone should follow our curriculum just like others – in this battle the students eventually lose. They would feel disconnected and lost of what may be taught in the school and what they learn from us.
Then I came across something what is called as Common Core Standards – a very simple mission to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them – across the US. And how many states adopted it – 45 states and 3 territories. Wow. That’s a game changer right there. Imagine a country having same format and same structure to follow to teach all its children. And what standards does Common Core cater to – Math and English. There could not be a better match.
http://www.corestandards.org/inthestates
So I started digging in more from there and started going to all individual state’s education board sites – CA, NY, TX, IN, KY, MA – almost all of them. Yes, most of them had adopted the standards and wanted to transition in 23 years time. But there was a twist. There is always a twist. Some of these bigger states had changed certain standards or added more as per their views. Hmm. So I started listing down the changes, the actual standards and comparing them with these variations. I did this for all the major states. The only real changes were seen in the states of CA and NY. Now, Why doesn’t that amaze me.
Texas was the major state that hadn’t adopted Core Standards (only 1 of the 5 states who didn’t adopt core standards for whatever reasons) so I had to go in great detail and compare Texas education and Common core standards. Although there wasn’t a huge difference Texas did have Statistics and Probability introduced earlier than Core Standards but everything else more or less was the same.
I must pause here and tell how impressive core standards are. They have very neatly divided each grade into topics that need to be taught, what college readiness skills are to be taught and what subtopics to be taught in those topics and its details. Very logically laid out as it should be and the best part – they are all created by the educators from schools across the country. The teachers who actually teach in the classroom and know what the students need. English standard had defined the books to refer and the classroom lessons as well. Impressive and an excellent starting point for us.
So coming back to other states – CA, NY and TX were the only states who had major variations from the core standards. We just added those variations to our curriculum to give students the opportunity to see what is different that is taught in CA, NY and TX.
So now we have the curriculum to start from. NC state board gave unpacking tools to even understand those standards in greater depth. A very effective document.
http://www.ncpublicschools.org/acre/standards/commoncoretools/
So we put in a team of teachers in Math and ELA from elementary, middle and high school and started putting the content and other pieces together. How to get unlimited questions in Math and ELA with increasing level of difficulty so that the student always has a different question which challenges him was a software challenge to be solved another day. But as of now I could sleep for the next 6 hours since we had the right curriculum to follow.

Kieran Mathieson

Hardik