State Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Dr. Tracey Severns visited the Anna L. Klein School in Guttenberg on Monday, March 11. She conducted a workshop for teachers to learn about the Common Core Standards, which 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted. The Common Core Standards apply primarily to English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics.
“They’re internationally benchmarked so that we’re graduating our kids and make them ready for that global marketplace,” said Severns. “Our work with kids is no less important than [that of] a surgeon. It’s the relentless pursuit of achievement.”
The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts will encourage students to build and present knowledge through research, integration, and comparison, and to synthesize ideas. The math standards teach students mathematical reasoning by constructing mathematical arguments and critiques.
“It’s the relentless pursuit of achievement.” – Dr. Tracey Severns
She is currently working on a Massive Open Online Course for teachers to use for free.
Severns said that students leaving third grade who are not achieving at their grade level are six times more likely not to graduate high school.
The Common Core Standards will go a step further by preparing America’s students for college and career, she said.
“I choose to believe that every [student] has the opportunity, potential to graduate and be college ready, so we must treat them like that every day, and support, challenge and engage them,” said Severns.
She focused on the importance of teachers understanding the Common Core.
In order to guide the local teachers, she brought several books: “Failure Is Not an Option: 6 Principles for Making Student Success the Only Option,” “Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning,” and “Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement.”
The road to chief academic officer
Severns graduated from the State University of New York with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, then moved to New Jersey and became a teacher’s assistant at The Children’s Institute in Livingston, where she discovered her love of teaching children with special needs.
“What I learned is the powerful effect that teachers have on kids,” said Severns.
At Montclair State College she specialized in Communication Sciences and Disorders, then held a position as a special education teacher at Millburn Middle School when she also enrolled in Seton Hall University’s Doctoral Program in Educational Administration and Supervision.
One of Severns’ many accolades was to be recognized as “visionary elementary school principal of the year” by the NJ Board of Education and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. After becoming superintendent of the Great Meadows Regional School District in 2003 she realized that she missed being a principal, which was the reason for her stepping down.
“I moved closer to that which I really know and love,” said Severns.
Severns was principal at Mount Olive Middle School where she worked alongside her vice-principal, Michelle Rosenberg, who is currently Anna L. Klein’s superintendent.
After Severns was hired by the state Department of Education in August of last year, Rosenberg insisted that Severns teach a workshop in Guttenberg.
Principal Pedro Garrido said he had his “Aha! Moment” when Severns equated not allowing students to fail with the importance of safety and security and creating an atmosphere that would enable student achievement.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org