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Last week during winter vacation, I was reading some educational blogs and forums. I wanted to see what types of topics were being discussed. One particular forum caught my eye. A teacher raised a question concerning the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and asked what educators were doing now to implement them into the curriculum. As I was reading through the replies and comments, I was amazed at some of the responses. It actually saddened me to see how intimidated we are as a profession. We continue to be provincial, skeptical, never truly allowing ourselves to move into 21st century teaching and learning. In my eyes, the Common Core State Standards will provide students with the necessary skills to be ready for the 21st century global workplace. But back to the comments I read.
I am overwhelmed with new initiatives and new curriculum.
Really? New curriculum? Shouldn’t curriculum in its purest and most authentic form be a living document that continually evolves to best meet the needs of our students? What kind of service are we providing our students if we continue to teach the same curriculum we have for years? The definition of daily teaching needs modification. Teaching as a profession is much more than the instructional component. It also includes professional goals, using student data to inform decisions, collaborative scoring and curriculum design.
The Common Core State Standards are more difficult than current state standards.
And the problem is? We need to raise our expectations of our students. Recent studies have shown that college remediation rates are staggering, where over 40% need to take at least one remedial course at a junior college, college or university (reported by the College Board). In addition, it shows that 23% of young people who try to join the military fail the enlistment test of basic math, science and reading skills (reported by The Education Trust). Why? Partly because the textual demands of college and career have remained steady or increased while the K-12 reading levels have declined. “Despite steady or growing reading demands from various sources, K-12 reading texts have actually trended downward in difficulty in the last half century.” See more details on declining text complexity and the consequences for American students. Also encouraging, the common core puts a heavy emphasis on reading informational text and critical literacy skills in the content areas. These are the type of literacy skills that students will truly need for college, career and citizenship in a democratic society.
I don’t want to be told how to teach.
Teachers have been independent contractors for too long. It is time for us, as a profession, to collaborate more, peer observe more, and critique more to improve our craft. We cannot have carte blanche to just teach the content we like to teach. This is unfair to students and leaves what should be an expectation of students receiving a solid educational foundation to chance. We all know stories of parents anxiously waiting to find out if their child will get the “good teacher”. I really hope these days are coming to an end. Parents should feel confident that all teachers are working collaboratively toward common goals and that when Johnny finishes 8th grade, regardless of his teacher, he will have had fair and equitable access to the same curriculum as all students. There must be a systematic approach to designing our units of study around the Common Core State Standards, and incorporating 21st century skills. We have always had standards for teaching. The problem is that standards, or clear learning targets, have not been the foundation of our teaching. We don’t teach subjects we teach students and students need clear learning goals and consistency in schools across subjects and grade levels.
Adopting new standards is demanding work but it is essential to our students’ improvement, the profession of teaching and the future of our country that we embrace this movement.
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There will never be that ideal moment, that magic pill, that ultimate cure to improve education in one shot. What we have created is a process to systemically change our own curriculum around the Common Core State Standards to build capacity in our students to become better learners.
As we stated in our blog on Core Training, we must continue exercising our brain and bodies regularly to improve ourselves.
Ready? All right, on the floor and give me 25 Common Core Crunches.