OCS recognized for college, career transition

Published 12:03 am Thursday, March 7, 2013



Opp City Schools is leading the way in the transition to College and Career Readiness Standards in the state.

The system was featured in February’s edition of Alabama Education News, the state department of education’s electronic newsletter, for its work with the Region 11 planning team to make the transition smoother.

Regional planning teams were developed for each of the 11 Alabama Regional Inservice Centers to provide customized differentiated support and services to local education agencies during the transition to the new standards.

CCRS is Alabama’s version of the Common Core Standards, which was approved in 2010 by the state board of education. The biggest change in the standards is how students connect their math and reading skills to real-world problem solving and career application.

“It’s a big process (transitioning to CCRS),” said OCS assistant superintendent Emily Edgar said. “We were selected by the state team to be in this publication in regards to the work implementing the new standards.”

It’s been an all hands on deck experience with representation from each school.

Edgar said, she along with Opp High School Principal Ron Snell, Opp Middle School Principal Aaron Hightower, Opp Elementary School Principal Brett Kinsaul, OCS Special Education Coordinator Sharon Spurlin, Christy Harrell, Kristi Meeks, Cathy Mikel, Angie Stephens, Samantha Zorn, Rhonda Martin, Daphne Patterson and Shannon Clark, have been learning about the new shifts, and it’s their responsibility to put together a district plan.

“I feel like our principals have taken the lead role,” she said. “It’s been extra work, but it’s worthy work.”

Edgar said that if the state had not put together the regional teams, it would have been up to the districts to figure out how to implement the new standard. The regional support staff comes in and helps the administration and teachers learn new lesson plans and ways to teach the new methods of conveying the standards.

“Without the generous assistance of our Regional 11 support staff (Rhonda Ayers), our efforts to facilitate the CCRS plan would have been unsuccessful, resulting in increasingly frustrated educators, therefore limiting their abilities to favorably impact their student,” Edgar said.

Kinsaul agreed.

“This professional study has provided insight on the rationale behind these key shifts, demonstrating the effect it will have on how and what teachers teach, ultimately impacting how our students learn in today’s world,” he said.

OCS Superintendent Michael Smithart said in an interview with AEN that the regional teams provide a sounding board for local educators.

“We hear problems and we find out that they aren’t unique to us,” he said. “Other districts have the same questions we have, and we get support.”

Smithart said that the team meetings help teachers know what to look for during walkthroughs, and that he’s excited about bringing the high school students on board since they have previously been left out in regards to professional development opportunities.

Edgar said the team has demonstrated what they have implemented and they are working with other districts to learn from each other.

Among the things Opp teachers are implementing include first graders working to use informational text to create posters during science lessons; middle school students completing after-strategy components to “show what they know;” government students to use study guides and graphic organizers for lessons; math students to use dice activities and graphic organizer to calculate probability; students use sentence strips to identify and categorize special angle pairs; students sort facts on a graphic organizer during an Alabama history lesson; students use jigsaw strategy with informational text; and incorporating true-false strategy to practice new standards in Alabama history.

“The move to College and Career Ready Standards represents a paradigm shift in education that affects everyone connected with education, including educators, their students and families,” said Snell. “We see a more rigorous curriculum, significantly higher expectations and a shift from product to process.”

Hightower agreed.

“Our vision is to educate our students to compete globally in any area they choose,” he said. “I believe CCRS have given them that opportunity. The CCRS professional development creates a smooth transition for educators to this new phase of rigorous instruction.”