The problem with Common Core
Like their public school counterparts, the Catholic Schools of Sioux Falls -- the largest private school system in South Dakota -- also tried typical common core methods. However, the Catholic Schools noted that this method caused a high level of stress among students and parents.
Though public schools are restricted by the government's standards and initiatives, private schools are free to try other curriculums. As such, the Catholic schools pursued some alternative styles of teaching. In fact, in three years, their classrooms have switched among three different approaches to math learning.
Trying something different
The move is part of what Director of Instruction Joan Mahoney calls an “interesting journey” in curriculum. For example, students no longer learn to stack two numbers and multiply down in third grade, though those lessons are taught in fifth grade. Instead, teachers use those two years to focus on alternative methods, such as asking a student to arrange tiles into a larger square.
Parents have noticed changes in their students' homework, including fewer problems per assignment, and less cumbersome problem-solving techniques with standard algorithms.
New technology, new benefits
Grant funding has also helped make more technology in the classroom possible. Students can use math-learning software, and teachers are able to better track how the students are using these math methods. Now able to better judge what each individual student is good at, teachers can regroup their students based on their learning levels. They'll also know when some students need more specific help.
Of course, the new program did not sit well with some parents, who would understandably prefer their students be taught the same methods as their public school counterparts. But even so, the Sioux Falls Catholic school system is still learning what works best for their students.
Traditional programs, common core, and alternative methods all have benefits and flaws. It is up to educators if a blended system is the key to their student’s success, but these schools are clearly giving it their all to find out what works best for their students.
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