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We hope to think that most everyone by now has probably seen if not read and perhaps even analyzed the CCSS as a first step to curriculum restructuring. If you haven’t, why not? You have probably also noticed the higher level of these standards compared to what students are presently doing in their schools. One look at the student exemplar models in Appendix C and the quality and level of sophistication is a little intimidating. Some teachers may be asking themselves…
How do we get our students to a higher level of expectations?
The Common Core State Standards have obviously set high expectations for students of the United States and it is our job to help our students become proficient in these standards.
Setting high expectations is one thing but we must think about. So, how can we support high expectations in our classrooms and schools?
8 ideas to support high expectations
1. Clarity and Purpose
As stated time and again, determining clear learning outcomes per grade level and course team and sharing those outcomes with students is vital as students move towards proficiency. Mike Schmoker’s brand new book Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning is a must read. He discusses the foundational elements of curriculum and instruction that schools need to focus on first before implementing new initiatives.
2. Use of Instructional Strategies to Build Skills
The CCSS clearly indicate that some skills students will be working on may need appropriate scaffolding. School or district-wide literacy strategies highlight the importance of literacy and the need for all students to access the curriculum regardless of learning level or language level.
Formative, immediate and ongoing feedback on how students are doing against a standard is one of the highest-yield strategies a teacher can use (Hattie, 2009).
4. Student-teacher relationships
When teachers take the time to build trusting, productive relationships with students, student performance increases. Students need to know you care and want them to succeed. There is no time to play the role of “Gotcha Police”.
5. Engaging Content
Students need to be challenged with fiction and non-fiction texts that engage them in their world and are relevant to their lives.
6. Parent Support
If parents understand and support the curriculum at home, students will perform better. This isn’t always possible but every effort that can be made to include parents in their child’s education will improve their ability to learn.
7. Professional Development
The most effective types of professional development include job-embedded observation, micro teaching, video feedback and practice with peers and mentors (Hattie, 2009). The adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the focus on literacy is a great impetus to revamp professional development practices.
8. Professional Learning Teams and Common Formative Assessments
Teachers need to rally around the expectations and work toward common goals. Common formative assessment data gives interdependent professionals the tools they need to make sound classroom and school-wide instructional decisions that will improve student learning.
These are truly turbulent times in education. Education has been on the front page for months now. The country is expressing its opinions about the tenure process, merit pay, and college readiness. It is unfortunate that quality teachers, who care so much for their students, are being put on the defense.
We ask that we all come together and agree that setting high expectations for students and ourselves will make for a better future for all of us. There has been too much finger-pointing lately, blaming one another for not preparing our students well enough to succeed. Let’s put the fingers away and create a system that ensures the success of the greatest resource of ours – our children.
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