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Saturday, March 24, 2012

No Reason to Fear the Common Core Standards

No Reason to Fear the Common Core Standards March 14th, 2011 By: Brian Hamilton in Articles, Common Core State Standards, Teachers' Corner The teachers at our middle school, much like those at other schools nationwide, are being introduced to the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. The paradigm shift envisioned in regard to these documents seems enormous, and if schools and districts only pay lip service to introducing these and then send teachers to figure out the logistics on their own, the results will likely be haphazard at best. While daunting, most educators will find, once they begin to unpack/unwrap the standards, that their fears and concerns are misguided and that they are already implementing many of the recommended strategies. By concentrating on the primary facets of the initial Common Core roll-out, we can alleviate our teachers’ fears and insure the transition goes as smoothly as possible. Know the layout: The Common Core Standards are divided into two primary components: The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards (CCR) and Grade Specific Standards. As the document states, the CCR and Grade Specific Standards are necessary complements – the former providing broad standards, the latter providing additional specificity- that together define the skills and understandings that all students must demonstrate. The CCR standards define literacy expectations for college and workforce readiness and are divided into four strands: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Grade-specific standards define end-of-year expectations and correspond to the same-numbered CCR strand and standard. Be aware of the spiral effect: You will constantly hear reference to the “spiral effect” within the Common Core Standards. As explained by Dr. Douglas Reeves, founder of founder of The Leadership and Learning Center, students repeatedly practice mastered competencies from the year prior in the context of new competencies being “added” each year as the standard increases in complexity and sophistication. I think this will be the central paradigm shift for most educators as they begin to shift their instructional focus from being purveyors of content to teaching a specific set of skills within the context of their curriculum. The emphasis will now be on the competencies that need to be demonstrated at each grade level in relation to the curriculum. Unpack/unwrap the standards: While this will be the most time consuming task, it will also be the most rewarding! The basic steps will be the same regardless of which method you use: select a standard, identify the skills that need to be mastered and the key concepts to be taught, write essential questions, and determine appropriate pacing. Teachers, once they become actively involved in the process, will find this to be a liberating activity as they will really be able to focus on the big ideas and create the blueprint for what will be taught at each grade level. Assessment is the key: Finally, teachers will need to create units of study specifically designed to teach the key concepts and skills that they have identified. A major component of this phase will be determining the types of formative and summative assessments to use and how these assessments will be administered. This may once again prove to be a paradigm shift for many educators as current research continues to affirm the importance of formative assessment within the classroom to measure mastery of skills and educational objectives. I was recently at a conference led by Reeves and he mentioned that we must shift our emphasis in this regard and recommended a 90/10 plan: 90% formative assessment and 10% summative assessment. As outlined above, most schools will see that they are already doing many of the things expected of the Common Core Standards. So when that first discussion arrives at your school, do not greet it with trepidation! Arrive with a smile, content in the knowledge that you are prepared to conquer this new challenge! Brian Hamilton has served as the Assistant Principal of Instruction at Central Cabarrus High School and Hickory Ridge Middle School. He was a participant in the inaugural cohort of School Administrators as Instructional Leaders at the University of North Carolina, where he received the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award. He also participated in The Leadership Program for Assistant Principals and received the same award

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