My colleague, much like myself, enjoys a trip to the local teacher supply store. One day she spotted a book about preparing 5th graders for reading standardized tests using the Common Core State Standards. She took a flip through it and it looked good, so in the cart it went. As she shared her new aligned resource with her team, she started to get a feeling of familiarity. She’d seen the book before and not just over the weekend when she purchased it. In fact, she began to feel that maybe she had inadvertently purchased a book she already had. After a thorough check of her bookshelves, she had a huge pile of outdated material to recycle and 2 other books in her hand. One was about preparing 5th graders for the reading MSP. The other was about preparing 5th graders for the reading WASL. The books were all from the same publisher and identical, except for the name of the test in the title and date of publishing.
This is a true story. I couldn’t believe it myself. A publisher actually got away with merely changing the title and cover? I kid you not. My intelligent and highly effective colleague had been fooled by a text book company and purchased the exact same book on three separate occasions, years apart. What did she find that added even more salt to the wound? The book, while providing some quality activities, was never fully aligned to the standards they were based on. That’s why the materials ended up on the back of the bookshelf, forgotten, in the first place.
Everyone that’s been told this story has had a good chuckle on my colleague’s behalf. She’s good-natured, so she doesn’t mind. There are some things that might drive you crazy about the public industries selling materials to teachers after hearing this story. However, what I am reminded of again and again when I think about this instance is that there is NOT one magic curriculum. It doesn’t exist for math, reading, or writing. It doesn’t exist for social studies or science. It doesn’t exist for test preparation. If there were, all teachers would own it and our problems (well some of them, anyway!) would be solved!
In my opinion, a standard curriculum shouldn’t exist. For one, the needs of our kids are all different. Secondly, teachers are all different and thrive under our own unique styles. Thirdly, and receptive to the most debate, we shouldn’t teach to prepare kids for a test. Finally, student engagement is key and teacher creativity cannot be removed from the equation. Brooke talks about this here.
At a district training several years ago, before CCSS was adopted in our state, one of our directors told us that the standards (the EALRs at that time) were our curriculum. I internalized the message. It was exactly what I needed to hear in order to give me “permission” to skip pages of the assigned books that didn’t match my goals. Her statement has stuck with me ever since.
Do you want to know my favorite curriculum? You can find it right here. No, that’s right. I didn’t have an error with my hyperlink or get my websites mixed up. I use the Common Core State Standards as my curriculum. I’m not alone. My team does the same thing. Many teachers in my district are on board. Lots of you are probably doing the same thing, too.
I’m not insinuating that you should create everything on your own, dedicating your life to the CCSS. I, just like you, beg, borrow, steal (and give credit to, of course!), create, share, adapt, and research resources all of the time. There are many people, teachers and not, out there that are far smarter than I am and have done work that will work for my kids. Then there are people in the world that have done amazing work for their students, but it’s not right for me or my students. We have to use teacher judgment about what will work, in our specific situations, to get all kids to reach mastery of the CCSS.
Again, I don’t believe in a one size fits all curriculum. I do believe in best practices. I do believe in strategies that work. And I do believe that I have to create and re-create given each set of challenges each day. But I teach to the standards. I get a little flak from friends because I really do study the CCSS. I thrive on being able to talk about them without having a copy in front of me. It’s pretty ‘nerdy ‘ (I prefer ‘scholarly’) of me, I know. But I’m okay with that!
Don’t get me wrong, there are materials I rely heavily on, but only after a close examination of alignment. If you’re looking for ways to align the materials you already have, keep reading this blog! The authors that share this space give me new ideas with every post! Kelly talks about aligning basal series you already have with CCSS here. Lindsey discusses how to write Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) modules that really teach with the CCSS in mind here. And I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to share my favorite instructional strategies with you!
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.