Last year I began to collect lots of data on my students and how they were progressing in the seven scoring elements on the LDC rubric. If you are not familiar, LDC stands for Literacy Design Collaborative, it is a unit framework for planning rigorous literacy based instruction that is designed around the Common Core. The LDC rubric is hardwired to the Common Core State Standards and bundles them into the following elements: Focus, Controlling Idea, Reading Research, Development, Organization, Conventions, and Content Understanding. Near the end of this year I looked out at my class while they were doing their last essay reflection using their rubric scores from the entire year. I realized that bundled like this, my students could easily tell me how they had grown and struggled with these categories. What I then wondered was: would they be able to tell me if I broke it down into the actual Common Core State Standards?
I was in no way a ninja with the standards. They were literally everywhere. Wrapped up in the rubrics and tasks I was asking them to do. On almost every assignment sheet, on the board, on the daily agenda and on posters that were switched out by unit. I did wonder, however, if the students could think about their ability to meet each social studies standard when pulled out from the collaborative rubric. I also started to wonder if they had noticed their experiences in their classes change over the last two years. (In my building we really started being more deliberate with the new standards over these two years.) I knew that teachers were changing the way they were teaching, but I wondered how aware of this the students were.
So…I decided to ask them. The first thing I did was to type the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies and Technical Subjects for both reading and writing into a table, putting them into “I can” statements. I asked the students to read each standard carefully and then give themselves a check, plus, or minus, meaning I am proficient, I am
advanced, or not solid yet. Next I asked them to choose three reading standards and three writing standards to elaborate on. Why did they think they should put a plus or a minus in that box? I also added a question at the bottom of the assignment. It read, “Have you noticed a change in your assignments or experiences in classes in the last two years as the teachers have been working toward the implementation of the new standards?”
When I talked with other teachers about my plan to do this we began to
wonder if the students were going to feel over confident and say they could do everything, or were going to assume they couldn’t? I personally felt, before they completed the assignment, that they had for the most part mastered the standards. I would have said most students are beyond proficient in many of the standards. I also hoped they would feel confident about any standard that had to deal with text evidence or conducting research projects as I know I focused a lot on these skills this year.
Here is what I found:
The students felt very proficient. I surveyed sixty-eight students and the largest number of minuses I had for one standard was ten. Most of the other numbers were closer to three or four.
For Reading Standard 3, “I can evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best correlates with the evidence, citing where the text leaves things uncertain”, and Writing Standard 9, “I can use evidence from literary and informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research”, there were no minuses. This means that 100% of my students felt they were proficient or advanced in meeting these standards.
After looking closer at the data I found that Reading Standards 1,2,3 and 8 are the strongest as are writing standards 2, 7 and 9. Most of these standards had to do with text evidence, research projects, and author’s claim. I can see where my lessons and focus were effective.
I also was able to see that the largest struggle for my students was in writing standard 9 that had to deal with analyzing how a complete primary source is structured. This was an area I know I didn’t focus on and the data showed me exactly where the holes in lesson and unit design were.
When the students self-assessed the writing standards they were much more confident and there were just a few students who recorded a minus for any given standard. This let me know my students felt stronger meeting the writing standards than the reading standards.
The really telling part however were the comments about how the Common Core changed their experiences. Here are just a few of my favorites.
“I have noticed more interactive learning which helps me be more involved in class.”
“We are more focused on the present time and teachers are teaching us skills that will be useful after high school not just to get through high school.”
“I think it challenges me and tests my authentic capabilities for reading and writing.”
“It outlines what we should know therefore we are taught that and it’s what we learn. It has taught me different ways of thinking. “
“Many of our lessons are based on the new CC standards and therefore impact our experience because we use less textbooks and connect more literary works and skills.”
And my personal favorite, from one of my students who I adore and who likes to tell me like he sees it,
“Yes! For example, for some odd reason we do papers in PE class now. Now if that’s not a load of [bull], then I don’t know what is. It’s common now in PE. Why do I have to write in PE of all classes?”
This just made me want to run down to the locker room and give my health and PE colleagues a hi-five.
Most of the other comments were very similar. Many students mentioned less text books and more outside resources as well as projects and more real world application.
This survey was very validating for me. It was clear both in their essays and in their own rating of their skills that this is working. My social studies students are stronger writers than they have been in years past. They are more engaged in their learning and they are seeing the value of what they are learning to make them successful in the “real world”, or in teacher speak, college and career ready.
I now know as I spend my summer planning some new units for next year what to keep doing, what to pull back on, and what I need to add in.
Survey Says… Common Core is working and the students know it.