Common Core training ramps up in Boise

With Idaho Core Standards on the horizon, summer break was about the farthest thing from sixth-grade teacher Rebecca Wargo’s mind.

Wargo was one of 50 Boise-area teachers who signed up for the State Department of Education’s Idaho Core professional development training devoted to science, social studies and history teachers.

“We talk a lot about the standards, but never actually get to get our fingers dirty and find out what it means to me as a teacher,” Wargo said. “That’s why we take time out of our summer.”

This week, Wargo and her colleagues had the chance to review specific standards in depth, develop lesson plans and complete sample assignments based on the standards, which will be taught in Idaho schools for the first time in the fall.

The three-day training, which wraps up Thursday, is one of eight science-related professional development opportunities the state is offering this month. The training was paid for by $3.75 million set aside by the Idaho Legislature earlier this year.

Education consultants from Discovery Education, a subsidiary of the company that owns The Discovery Channel, led the training.

As a former classroom teacher in Michigan and Florida, Discovery ED’s Jared TenBrink said the training is important in implementing the standards and moving past the “nervous excitement” teachers often feel about Common Core.

Discovery ED logo“Most teachers are apprehensive, but as they learn more they tend to feel more confident,” TenBrink said.

TenBrink leads eight to 15 professional development training sessions per month across the country. Every session relates to the new standards.

At the outset of this week’s training in Boise, TenBrink told teachers he wants to help them become fluent in Core vocabulary, share Discovery ED’s multimedia classroom resources and help them design ways to integrate media and technology with their teaching of Idaho Core Standards.

“I want to see teachers walk away with a strategy they can bring back to their classroom and use right away and feel confident in their own ability to adapt to changes in education,” TenBrink said.

Although the standards specifically relate to English language arts and math, science and history teachers don’t get a free pass, said Scott Smith, the State Department of Education’s Science and STEM Coordinator.

“We brought Discovery in to show (teachers) how to crosswalk reading and writing requirements into their own courses,” Smith said. “It’s all teachers’ job to bring students along with the Core skills, and master teachers are already doing it.”

During this week’s training, leaders emphasized student fluency and literacy requirements, and the need to move beyond memorization to craft persuasive arguments citing specific evidence from texts.

TenBrink worked to dismiss one of the myths circulating about the new Core Standards. Standards are goals or objectives students should be able to exceed by the end of an academic year, but the standards do not dictate content.

“They don’t talk about the art of teaching,” TenBrink said. “They don’t tell you how to teach. You’re still the person in that classroom responsible for making sure you reach those students.”

There is a lot Wargo likes about the new standards, and she thinks she and her students are up to the challenge.

“I think (students) will find it more challenging, but also more engaging because I think there is more collaboration, more opportunity for students to form opinions rather than regurgitate information,” Wargo said.

Teachers were able to attend for free, but the session cost $60 if they wished to receive an available continuing education credit.

Future training sessions for science, history and social studies are available across the state later this month. Information is online at the department’s website.

Upcoming professional development

July 24-26, Coeur d’Alene

July 24-26, Lewiston

July 29-31, Boise (full, registration closed)

July 29-31, Twin Falls

August 1, 2 & 5, Meridian