Recently while on my Facebook I saw someone had posted “Ding Dong Common Core is Dead.” This was a post in response to a news article about the end of No Child Left Behind and its replacement with the Every Student Succeeds Act. I truly think and hope that she is wrong. I am not going to get political in this post. Mostly because I have not done extensive research nor can I tell the future. I do have three reasons why I really want my district to hang onto our focus on these standards however.
- They are good standards and I want my own child to be able to meet them. We are in the midst of a literacy adoption in my district. At an adoption committee meeting, the day after the news broke about the new legislation, (how’s that for perfect timing), we were discussing how our curriculum options were aligned to the CCSS. One of the teachers asked if we were making a mistake aligning our curriculum in this way if the standards might be changing. The response from our Secondary Literacy Director really hit home with me. She asked the teachers which one of the standards they did not want their kids to know. Which skill was not a good skill to have? The answer of course is none. They are quality standards. Right now we have them lumped in with other pieces of the system that are not so strong and need some work, like NCLB and the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Fellow teacher leaders Mary Moser’s recent post offers some insight on this same topic if you want to explore this idea more.
- I have started to see real alignment across the curriculum. As a mentor teacher this year I have been able to see what is happening in my schools across the board. On my caseload I have teachers of math, science, ELA, social studies, art, PE/health, and band. This has opened my eyes to a whole new world of department politics as well as allowed me to see themes from one part of a student’s day to another. Because of the CCSS I am able to see the connections students are making and the skills they are transferring. For instance, I was meeting with a social studies teacher who was analyzing the results of her tenth grade world studies student’s second writing assessment this year. As we looked at the results from her her first assessment, we decided that the students needed the most focus on analyzing the evidence they had chosen to use in their essays. We found that their organization was also weak but chose to focus in on the analysis and then do organization in the next unit. When we were looking at the second round however, we found that they had greatly increased their analysis, yea, the hard work paid off, AND their organization did as well. My teacher was very pleasantly surprised, but I was not surprised at all. I knew that the tenth grade ELA teachers had been hitting organization hard in their courses. This was concrete evidence that using these common standards, language, and assessment criteria was helping students to transfer skills as well as freeing up teachers to concentrate on other things. My new teacher felt that aside from one or two students who may need some more support for organization she could move on and not spend the time she had planned on that skill. Serious Common Core win.
- It’s simply hard to hit a moving target. I get really frustrated when it seems the system wants to always blame the teacher. I stand by the knowledge that the majority of teachers I know are intelligent people with big hearts and endless amounts of dedication to and empathy for their students. We are always being asked to increase scores on this or that, or to show student growth in this or that. It honestly feels that as soon as we start to figure it out the goal changes. Teachers really are willing to do what we feel is best for kids and to increase their knowledge and skills. This is why we do our work. None of us gets up in the morning and thinks,” man I really hope I waste a bunch of time with my students today”. We do however, feel like that time is wasted if, when we get in a place where we are understanding and making progress someone says, “never mind, let’s do this instead.”
All this to say, I really hope the target can stay the same. The test, transparency, and the politics are all other issues that do not impact the fact that the standards are good standards. They are creating a culture of education where students can transfer skills and be critical thinkers, and we are really getting better at reaching the needs of our students through them. Let the teachers continue the good work they are doing.