Common Core In Menomonee Falls

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Premiere Date: 
March 14, 2014

Common Core In Menomonee Falls

Frederica Freyberg heard from Menomonee Falls educators on what the standards are like.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

But first, there is plenty of controversy over the state's so-called Common Core Academic Standards, standards adopted across the country and designed to make American children more globally competitive. In Wisconsin, some Republican lawmakers want to rewrite Common Core and give the legislature more say. But just what do the standards look like once inside the classroom. We went to Menominee Falls High School to find out.

Casey Ulrich:

All Right, anytime we’re looking at the slope this is kind of the formula-- Nicky, does this look familiar?

Frederica Freyberg:

Students in this honors high school math class probably couldn't recite the Common Core Academic Standards, but they don't have to. They're living them.

Casey Ulrich:

So really just in the classroom, it becomes, rather than a lecture, it becomes more of a conversation about learning rather than, here’s how to do it.

Why does the slope have to be negative ½.

Frederica Freyberg:

Math teacher Casey Ulrich doesn't use textbooks. He designs his own lessons aligned to the standards.

Casey Ulrich:

Yeah.

Frederica Freyberg:

It's anything about wrote.

Man:

Here is how math works. Let’s take a 25 mile a gallon car as sort of our baseline.

Frederica Freyberg:

Take, for example, this lesson kicked off with a video on cars. Attention perks up for 16-year-olds just starting to drive. The lesson compares whether a higher priced electric car becomes a better or worse deal than a lower priced gasoline car.

Casey Ulrich:

And the kids instantly already were connected to it. They used their intuition, so they kind of understand and maybe can see a little bit more why the math is useful rather than me just telling them, math.

Girl:

And then I would subtract 3x.

Casey Ulrich:

Gotcha, so either way, you're getting rid of those two things.

Frederica Freyberg:

In the end, students are getting to a graphed-out equation of dollars spent on each car to determine value using x's and y's.

Casey Ulrich:

Instead of putting just the generic y equals this, y equals that, here’s how we solve it. Here  it’s more of the algebra. Personally, as a teacher, bores me. If I sometimes get too dry I kind of just like, guys, this is boring. I’m sorry.

Let me ask you this, what do you think the slope is?

The students have to think, where in the past they haven't had to. The classroom becomes a place of conversation and engagement rather than lecture and taking notes.

Frederica Freyberg:

Common Core hit the classroom in Menominee Falls four years ago.

Patricia Greco:

The focus is college and career ready. The expectation is we can compete internationally. And the word common really reflects to, we're reaching agreement across the United States without necessarily mandating one test. So that actually is the debate that we're in right now.

Frederica Freyberg:

And because the focus is college and career ready, the district is building students' skills using the Common Core Standards towards success on the toughest test there is in high school, the college entry exam, the ACT.

Gary Kiltz:

We're seeing growth on our overall composite score. We've actually had our highest composite score ever with more students taking the ACT than ever before. And then looking at the breakout score, science has jumped tremendously, but we've seen jumps across all of the categories as a result of some of this alignment work we've done with the curriculum.

Casey Ulrich:

Negative 2, minus 3, the difference is a negative 5.

Frederica Freyberg:

And the work toward high scores on the ACT, which measures comprehension, begins in kindergarten.

Paula Muehler:

The old standards for math were a lot of memorization, a lot of skill based, a lot of procedure based. Now the math is conceptual. The kids need to know why does 5 plus 5 equal 10. Can you show me that symbolically? Can you explain it in a story?

Frederica Freyberg:

In addition to a depth of understanding, Common Core Standards are more rigorous.

Paula Muehler:

In kindergarten they used to have to count to 30. Now they have to count to 100, but not just start from 1, start at 55, start at 37, start at 73.

Frederica Freyberg:

The point is the depth and rigger means students don't forget memorized math facts. Here is an example from language arts.

Linda Braier:

They're always having to support their evidence of why they're answering the way they are. The questions are deeper questions. They’re not questions like what color dress did Susie wear in this story, but it might be, why is Susie feeling this way? What happened in the story? They're starting to analyze texts better at younger ages and all the way through.

Casey Ulrich:

We’ve got addition, we’ve got multiplication.Frederica Freyberg:

We didn't set out to find a district fully embracing the Common Core Standards, but this one has.

Gary Kiltz:

I do think they're a much stronger set of standards to help us move forward with our students and really the expectations in college, the expectations that employers have of our students.

Frederica Freyberg:

The superintendent in Menominee Falls says she hates the politics surrounding the Common Core Standards.

Patricia Greco:

Legislatively and across the universities and communities, I would love to see people really have the deeper conversation around how do we build and sustain appropriate resources for every child when we're actually committing to that post-secondary transition. State goal was to have 40% of our students have a bachelor's degree by 2023. Let's have those conversations, not just the debate about what we're going to teach and when. 

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