This year, the Common Core State Standards—a central part of Hawaii’s Race to the Top plan—made their debut in all grades at this school as they did throughout the state. At Kanoelani Elementary, a 785-student school in Waipio on the island of Oahu, the common core is being integrated into a school that prides itself on a cohesive approach to learning across grade levels.
In kindergarten, Matthew Fujikawa recently read his pupils a story about a duck and some soup. He asked them to start wondering about the story. The children mused: Is the duck still wandering away? Did the duck get hurt?
In a neighboring class, Tracy Takazono asked her 1st graders about a storybook picture of two bats: “What is mama bat telling Stella Luna?”
And over in a 5th grade class, teacher Patty Kenny asked her students to fill in this blank: “On Black Friday, I dropped my packages when someone in the crowd__________me.” The students answered with “hit,” “shoved,” “pushed,” and “enforced.” (A discussion ensued about what word might not belong.)
The common-core-aligned lesson, being taught at different grades by different teachers on the same day was the same: prediction and inference.
Such alignment allows teachers, even across grades, to come together during their professional-development planning time to talk strategy: what worked, what didn’t, and whether students learned. All told, teachers in this school and throughout Hawaii get two days of planning and collaboration time per year, plus 21 hours of professional development that can be delivered in one-hour chunks. And that’s not counting a teacher’s regular classroom “prep” time.
“Professional development around the common core is key,” said Principal Stacie Kunihisa.
A version of this article appeared in the December 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Putting Common Core to Use