Finding Common Ground With the Common Core
Welcome back! Last year, I was one of Scholastic's Teacher Advisors, and I shared learning experiences from my English language arts classroom. This year, I am honored to return as one of Scholastic’s Top Teachers, serving in a slightly different capacity. My focus throughout the year will be on two topics at the forefront of education: the Common Core State Standards and state assessments. In addition to sharing my curriculum mapping journey, classroom experiences, and reflections, I hope to build a support community — a Common Core family — for all of us who are engaging in the groundbreaking educational reformation process.
Photo: iStockphoto © Duncan1890.
Since New York State adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on July 2, 2011, I have been integrating them into my curriculum. Last year, I started by basing new units on the CCSS. I have completed the crosswalk process, aligning my content to the Common Core and identifying gaps. I’ll admit, the influx of conflicting and vague information has been frustrating at times; however, I hope my efforts will pave the way for many of you.
Three Arguments for the CCSS Reform
Aligning curricula to the CCSS is expensive and time-consuming. So why, when educational funding is being cut, should we take on this endeavor? Below is my understanding of the three major arguments for adopting the Common Core State Standards Initiative:
- Currently, each state has its own set of learning standards. But state populations are mobile, so what does this mean for our children? According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, the average person changes residence 11.7 times in a lifetime; more than 42 million Americans moved between March 1992 and March 1993 alone. Of these, twenty-six million moved within a county, eight million moved to another county within the same state, and seven million moved between states. The Common Core ensures that students, regardless of geographic location, receive equitable high-quality education.
- The current standards cover a broad span of performance indicators, fostering a mile-wide, inch-deep approach to covering content. The Common Core horizontally and vertically aligns the curriculum from state to state and within districts, thereby providing clear educational outcomes for students, parents, and teachers. The expected outcomes for each grade level allow for an in-depth exploration of content that increases the retention of skills and knowledge.
- The higher-level standards provide the opportunity for our students to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to compete in our high-stakes global economy. In a CBS News online video "Other Nations Outclass U.S. on Education," Jim Axelrod reports that the United States currently ranks 25th in math and 21st in science. In addition, the U.S. has a graduation rate of 75%, ranking 20th. Finland, Germany, Korea, and the United Kingdom consistently outrank the U.S.
Photo: iStockphoto © Wojciech Gajda.
Students enroll in and transfer from our schools all the time. Some students move and return in the same year. About five years ago, I started the year with a creative writing project based on Chris Van Allsburg’s book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. A fabulous student, whom I will call Crystal, was highly motivated and engaged in the mystery writing project. Sadly, in January, Crystal moved to another county. Toward the end of the year, I received a package in the mail. To my surprise, it was a book that Crystal had written and illustrated, dedicated to me and based on the The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. But few students are as motivated as Crystal, and what happens to them?
In our modern mobile world, educators have a new challenge: considering the gaps created as transient students move during a school year or during their P-12 career. We need to ensure that regardless of which teacher, school, state, or country students encounter, they receive a high-quality equitable education that gives them the freedom to live anywhere in the world.
Your CCSS Journey
Has your state adopted the CCSS? If so, did they amend them? Rewording, adding to, or deleting from the original standards is prohibited. However, each state has the right to incorporate additional standards. The ASCD created a “Common Core Standards Adoption by State” Web page, indicating which states have adopted them, which states are in the process of adopting, and which states have not made a commitment at this time. Clicking on your state’s name below the map will take you to the version of the CCSS adopted by your state. This year, I will be referring to the New York State CCSS. You will want to focus on those adopted by your state; however, since we have common ground in the Common Core, there should be very little variation.
Last year, I broached the subject of the Common Core on my Classroom Solutions blog post,"Common Core State Standards." Scholastic is offering free CCSS Webinars to support teachers in the reformation process.
In addition, I have created a Common Core widget “Common Core Resources” using Scoop.it. It showcases ten CCSS Web resources that offer the most current information. Please feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed to receive future updates.
This year will definitely be challenging for many of us. However, by forming a Common Core community, the curriculum mapping process can be an exciting adventure. Please feel free to share your views, concerns, classroom activities, or progress here.