The Common Core Shift: Page 1/5
We all want the best in education for all students. As parents, students, teachers, grandparents, community members, and business owners we all have a stake in what and how students learn. A report titled, “Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts,” found that both employers and colleges are demanding more of high school graduates than in the past. According to Achieve, Inc., the major problem currently facing the American school system is that high school graduates were not provided with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed. The report continues that the diploma itself lost its value because graduates could not compete successfully beyond high school, and that the solution to this problem is a common set of rigorous standards.
Pearson and other educational companies jumped on board offering curriculum, seminars, and textbooks based upon the principles of Common Core. The Common Core Standards are a blueprint for all states. Each state is to have the freedom to choose their own curricula, those are the details of how to reach the Common Core Standards. Does this freedom really exist? Will it be taken away in the future? This is something to watch. School administrators and presenters at a meeting I attended explained that Common Core requires a “shift” in teaching practices. The instructional shifts are in the Literacy Standards, English Language Arts, and Mathematics Standards. Also embedded in Common Core is the Habits of Mind and the “4 C’s" (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication), and a new test authored by Next Generation Assessments (Pearson’s testing division).
During a school district meeting I attended we viewed “Common Core State Standards in the Classroom” by David Coleman, president of the College Board. He also co-authored the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Another two videos ("Transforming Education Through the Common Core Standards" and "Bringing Common Core to Life") gave an overview of Common Core and the shifts needed in teaching practices. These videos by David Coleman explained the benefit of a slower teaching pace, concentration on “student learning, rigor, and depth of knowledge”. This meeting gave me a great inside scoop and look at Common Core. While I have followed the development of these standards over the past few years, the meeting brought to life some of the perceived benefits, uncertainties, challenges, misconceptions, and drawbacks.
Purported Benefits of the Common Core
1. The Common Core provides a blueprint for each state that is uniform. If a student moves to another state, then that student in theory will be able pick up and continue their educational career without challenge. The authors and proponents of Common Core call upon teachers to “shift” their instructional practices to implement the standards for the creation of a unified educational system.
2. The Common Core is Teaching 101, the basics of what to learn and the basics of teaching methodology. Teachers across the country have unified curricula and methodologies under Common Core. Professional development, trainings, videos, discussions, etc. give teachers across the country a blueprint for how to make this happen. This gives struggling teachers, those that got stale in their teaching, and those that needed a review of basic educational principles an opportunity to improve.
3. The Common Core promises college professors and business owners that students across the country will be ready for to work and succeed.
4. Common Core is rooted in literacy, as a key factor in improving student success and learning across subject matter.
5. Common Core also focuses reading and writing in all subjects, finding and using evidence. This approach makes students detectives in search for evidence in what they read and reporters in the evidence they find. It also requires students to utilize evidence in their own writing and discussions.
6. Deep analysis is another key feature of Common Core. Students are to learn how to learn, how to discuss topics, and use reason and complex ideas.
7. Teachers have an important role within the Common Core blueprint to use and facilitate student learning in a sequential manner. Common Core instruction is to be thorough, slow, and rely upon strategies such as “think-write-pair-share”, modeling thinking, wait time, allowing for struggle time, annotating, and encouragement of reasoning.
8. Common Core assessment of student progress, knowledge, and skills is based upon “Habits of Mind”. These habits include independence, knowledge of content, technological capability, perseverance, construction arguments, precision, and use of reasoning.
9. The Common Core promises a return to the basics in mathematics. Younger students kindergarten through sixth grade will not spend much time with math exercises related to graphing, rounding, and patterns. Instead k-6 students will focus more on number sense, place value, operations, and fractions.
10. Testing of students will be computer adaptive. The testing program is designed to asses a student’s performance and then recognize their level of proficiency. As a students answers questions the program is to adjust the level of difficulty to meet the level of the student. The practice test questions are challenging and some students in New York that took the actual test ran out of time. Perhaps improvements will be made to make the test more reasonable or the adaptive technology will be improved. The practice test and actual test require careful reading and clicking of answers, something some students may end up guessing to get through and something some students will get frustrated completing. For example, question number 1 Part A on the English Language Arts test asks students to read a scientific passage and then to "Click on the sentence that might happen to the food chain if there were no sun." (Click on image below to see)
Question 14 asks students to read a passage and then to type in an answer to "What are some ways in which Mexican free-tails are unique among bat species? Use at least two details from the presentation to support your answer." Question 15 asks students to decide "Why is the quotation from the park ranger included at the beginning of the presentation?" (Click on image below to see)
Misconceptions of Teacher Education...
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Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki Common_Core_State_Standards_Initiative, http://www.washingtonpost.com/