By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Quincy Federation of Teachers is making some progress in its campaign to educate the public about the common core state standards being adopted in the Quincy School District.
Marilyn Smith, common core project manager, said the organization has already conducted two community forums and is scheduling a series of presentations for local service clubs. Other communication efforts are also under way.
For example, the group plans to unveil a website soon. It also is putting the finishing touches on two 30-second public service announcements that will begin airing in February.
In addition, the group is developing some educational fliers for local distribution, and it is planning to conduct a training session March 14 for day care providers in Adams County.
Smith said the training session is being offered in partnership with the West Central Illinois Child Care Connection to help educate home day care and preschool providers about steps they can take to help students become better prepared to start school.
"We're reaching out there because research will tell us that 50 percent of our ‘achievement gap' walks through our doors when children enter school," Smith said. "In other words, if kids coming into school don't have the reading to, the singing to, or the playing with -- those fundamentals -- then we're already starting out behind."
Day care providers will be given some specific ideas on activities they can do that are aligned with the common core standards. For instance, the common core encourages more use of nonfiction reading materials as a way to develop stronger thinking skills in children.
"When you look at students who are preschool age or below, you naturally lean toward fictional-type books," Smith said. "So one of the things that we'll do is provide day care providers who are coming with some informational books at the preschool or younger level that are nonfiction."
Last summer, the QFT received a one-year $75,000 grant from the American Federation of Teachers to educate the public about the new common core standards and what they will mean for teaching and learning in the Quincy Public Schools. Smith, an employee of the Quincy School District since 1990, was hired to lead the effort while working under the direction of a steering committee comprising QFT and school district personnel.
Smith started working the new part-time position in August while continuing to work part time as coordinator of the district's teacher mentor program.
The common core state standards -- being introduced in Illinois and 45 other states -- lay out a detailed set of skills that students are expected to achieve in various subjects at various grade levels. The goal is to establish a "common core of knowledge" that all students will have at graduation so they will be successful as they proceed on to college, careers or the military.
So far, national common core standards have been developed for math, and English and language arts, but are still in development for science and social studies.
Smith said the QFT's new common core website -- committothecore.org -- will feature lots of useful information for community members, parents, teachers and students.
"There is a section for each of them," she said. "There's going to be a lot of information on there, and we'll keep adding to it."
The website will have articles and links to resources that can be tapped to help students flourish under the common core system.
Smith said one theme of the QFT's educational campaign is to urge parents, students and the community to "commit to the core" by learning about the new standards and doing what they can to help students succeed.
Smith said any local service clubs that want to hear a presentation on the common core can call her at (217) 223-0003 to make arrangements.