Torah Day School’s general studies curriculum centers upon the goals that are put forth in the Common Core State Standards that have been adopted by 45 states since they were formulated in 2010. The following four questions and answers come from the core standards website, which contains a great deal of additional information: http://www.corestandards.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions
What are educational standards?
Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.
What is the Common Core State Standards Initiative?
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four year college programs or enter the workforce. The standards are clear and concise to ensure that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of the expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics in school.
What guidance do the Common Core State Standards provide to teachers?
The Common Core State Standards are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for the knowledge and skills students need in English language arts and mathematics at each grade level to ultimately be prepared to graduate college and career ready. The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.
How do the Common Core State Standards compare to previous state standards?
The Common Core State Standards were written by building on the
best and highest state standards in existence in the U.S., examining the expectations of other high performing countries around the world, and careful study of the research and literature available on what students need to know and be able to do to be successful in college and careers. No state in the country was asked to lower their expectations for their students in adopting the Common Core. The standards are evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and are informed by other top performing countries. They were developed in consultation with teachers and parents from across the country so they are also realistic and practical for the classroom.
What specific curricular goals at TDSD follow these standards?
Classes in Language Arts, history, and science all aim at reading and writing standards. The overall goals of Torah Day School’s program can be summarized as follows:
- Comprehension is emphasized from the earliest age
- Close textual reading skills, with works of increasing complexity, are built;
- Students are led to make logical inferences
- Students find central ideas and themes
- Students compare formats and arguments
- Students interpret a variety of texts, including at least 50% non-fiction
- Beginning in Kindergarten, students produce a significant amount of writing on age-appropriate topics
- As students advance, they learn to write essays to persuade, inform, and to convey personal experience (with emphasis shifting to persuasion and information in the middle school years)
- Writing assessment is based on development of ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions
- Students are led to focus on logical arguments based on claims and evidence
- Students also learn to identify audience and purpose for each piece of writing
- Daily grammar exercises teach punctuation, grammar, and sentence variety
- Final drafts of papers are edited for conventions (apart from the revision process)
- Vocabulary is a key component of the program, building on the statistical correlation between vocabulary and high school/college success.
Torah Day School’s core use of the Singapore Math curriculum in grades K-6 aligns us with the chief goals of the Common Core State Curriculum, which drew in part on the same international data that led to the use of Singapore Math in the U.S. Both the Common Core and Singapore math stress the need for a deep conceptual understanding of mathematics. Problem-solving is emphasized beginning in Kindergarten, and students spend a significant amount of time on number sense and concepts such as place value. Visual, concrete aids such as model drawing are a key part of the program, with the ultimate goal being to develop a true intuition about mathematics. The student is not primarily playing with manipulatives, nor is he or she memorizing what procedure to follow. Rather the student is being led to analyze the problem at hand, to draw a diagram that will display the given facts, and to use reasoning to solve it.