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Teachers work hard to help students meet new academic standards

Published On: Nov 15 2012 06:05:38 PM CST   Updated On: Nov 15 2012 07:23:43 PM CST

We are just three months into the new school year, but already some students are struggling to keep up in the classroom.

It's one of the results of the new state academic standards that took effect at the beginning of the school year .

The Common Core raises the expectations for students in what they know and by what grade they know it.

That means some students have more to learn by the end of the school year than they did under the old standards.

It's a big task Onalaska Middle School is taking on right away.

From the outside, Onalaska Middle School seems the same as last year, but inside teachers are working hard to bring their students up to speed with the new state academic standards from the Common Core.

"Quite honestly, the biggest challenge is that gap has grown bigger just by having that Common Core implemented. The standards are higher. Where our kids need to be that bar is set a little bit higher so we have to work even harder to do whatever we can to close that gap," said Alex Hubing, an Onalaska Middle School sixth-grade teacher Alex Hubing.

"We jumped very quickly from one level to another of what our expectations need to be for our students and that happened over the course of this past summer," said Onalaska Middle School Principal Jed Kees.

The new standards are for math, reading, and language arts.

"The language and reading are really meant to be taught together. So our structure here at school is that reading and language are separate. So what we're working on this year is moving toward meeting those Common Core standards by combining them into one class," said Hubing.

But it's in the subject of math that Hubing said students are really feeling the impact of the new standards.

"I would say in math they're feeling that pressure to be basically further along in math than they were before. Reading I don't see it as much but I know in math it's more rigorous," said Hubing.

"It's been a very big jump. Last year it was mostly review of sixth grade and some new stuff. In eighth-grade, it's a big jump to new stuff I didn't really know," said Onalaska Middle School eighth-grade student David Scheel.

And while the students are feeling the impact, the biggest pressure may be on the teachers.

"The greatest challenge we've had so far has just been getting everyone on the same page. We have to work very closely with one another to make sure all the kids are meeting those standards, so the communication between teachers is vital right now," said Hubing.

Students won't be assessed by the new standards until 2014.

Teachers and staff said they're implementing the new standards now to try and make sure their students are as prepared as possible when the new assessment starts.

Wisconsin adopted the Common Core requirements as a result of the waiver they received from the No Child Left Behind Act.

One of the conditions of the waiver is that the academic bar be raised.

Implementing the Common Core is the way the state decided to do that.  

Wisconsin is one of 46 states to sign onto the Common Core.