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There are few words in the field of education that can evoke the range of emotions that the words common core can. When those words are mentioned there are people who literally balk at the thought of changing, revising, and revamping standards while others nervously peer over the educational reform landscape, scared to say anything for fear someone may actually make them do it. Well the time has came where these new standards are coming in to our classrooms- whether we like it or not.
According to the Common Core website, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce. Currently forty-six states have now adopted these shared standards.
Change is here.
In understanding the common core, teachers have to first understand that ‘doing common core’ in your classrooms is not anything radical, it’s the change in instruction through clearer, more precise standards. Just like anything worthwhile, these standards will be difficult to grasp for teachers (and students) but what’s the outcome if we continue to rely on the same standards like we’ve always done? Students will continue to not be ready for college and the blame will continue to be pointed at US, the teachers. So, why not give students, parents, and the community the higher thinking skills they want?
I can think of a student I taught years ago, John*, who was not ready for college. He was a model student who passed his classes and his End Of Course exams but he was not ready for a college classroom. We teachers tried to speak to his parents and him about the adjustment he was going to have to make to succeed but to no avail. We suggested he attend a community college but he balked at that suggestion. As he walked across the stage for graduation I kept thinking, “will he make it?” I got my answer sooner than I thought when I saw him working at the fast food restaurant not far from the school and he told me college had been too hard. Yes, we as teachers had taught him but with hundreds of standards and only a limited amount of time, we didn’t have time to go in-depth with his learning.
So what does that have to do with you? The Common Core will give teachers a little more freedom in deciding what they teach and how long they stay on a topic. When first looking at these new standards, is a necessity for teachers to examine the shifts in instruction for ELA/Literacy (we’ll discuss Mathematics later) classrooms:
1.Building knowledge through content- rich non fiction. As an ELA/Literacy teacher, I love teaching fiction but kids must be exposed to more non fiction throughout their k-12 years. On post secondary entrance exams such as the SAT/ACT, there is only a little amount of fiction. Despite the focus on non fiction, this should not solely be the responsibility of the ELA/Literacy teacher.
2. Reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational. I love it when kids use evidence from the text to support their conclusions in a discussion in class. With these new standards, using strategies such as text dependent questions really ask kids to show evidence for how they came to their conclusions.
3. Regular practice with complex text and its academic language. I have kids who come to high school reading several grade levels below. They struggle with grade level text so many times I’ve given them leveled texts- repeatedly. However what’s one of the ways to make someone a stronger reader? Letting them struggle with higher level readings while giving them tools to decipher what they are reading. Yes, this type of instruction is hard and it takes time but now I actually will have the time to actually do it without worrying about needless standards.
These shifts are indicative of exactly how different the Common Core standards are from every other educational reform already on the market. So this year follow me as I share the good, bad and ugly of implementing the Common Core in my classroom.
Now The Educator’s Room family, have you implemented the Common Core in your classroom? What are your initial struggles and successes using these standards?