The kindergarten and first-grade curriculum in the Meramec Valley School District is changing in ways that will impact students all the way through high school, according to Terri Parks, assistant superintendent.

The students are making the transition to new national standards that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has adopted.

Second-grade students also will make the transition to what is known as the new core standards by the end of the school year.

Core standards are new national standards that outline what students should learn in English and language arts and mathematics from kindergarten through high school.

Parks unveiled a new staff curriculum newsletter at the Nov. 19 board meeting that detailed the transition that is under way. Teachers also have to make the transition from the old standards to the new national standards.

Parks said as an educator for 13 years she sees the value of having students study under national standards.

“I’m excited about the idea of core standards,” Parks said. “For years, I’ve thought that there were way too many standards that students had to master.”

Under the new mandate, there are fewer standards, but students are asked to study deeper into the remaining standards.

“Under the old standards there were 18 math objectives for kindergarten students, now they have 13 or 14, but those are harder,” Parks said. “There are fewer things to learn, but students learn at a deeper level.”

Students are using ordinal numbers — counting in line — at a later grade and telling time at a younger grade.

“Instead of the old skill and drill, there will be earlier training with helping students explain the math process and explain how to solve a problem,” Parks said. “Students who think more conceptually are better prepared for college and careers.”

The Core Standards lay out detailed expectations of skills that students should have at each grade level.

Second-graders, for example, should be able to read two-syllable words with long vowels, while fifth-graders should be able to add and subtract fractions with different denominators.

The new curriculum is based on common core state standards that evolved from the National Governors Association (NGA), standards. Teachers, school administrators and education experts collaborated to create the core standards.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) adopted the new standards June 15, 2010, making Missouri the 10th state to adopt common core standards for English language arts and mathematics. To date, all but four states have adopted the national standards.

DESE recommended that kindergarten and first grade be fully transitioned to the new standards at the start of the 2012-13 school year. The second grade will complete the transition steps by the conclusion of this year.

During the 2014-15 school year, Missouri students in grades three through high school will be assessed over the new standards with MAP (Missouri Assessment Program) grade level and end-of-course exams.

Making the change from old to new, or “transitioning,” is Parks’ responsibility. Her newsletter will help guide teachers through each step of the transition.

Parents of k-2 students also received a newsletter last month explaining the new core standards and new test assessments and the district’s transition to them.