Common Core standards don’t limit what I do in the classroom – they open doors.
New Hampshire’s business, political and education leadership have committed to providing our students the 21st Century skills they need as citizens in the STEM-based economy of our state.
The Common Core sets ambitious goals for what students should learn in math and English in each grade from kindergarten through high school. The new standards are critical to that initiative and the future of our kids.
The new standards are high quality, a clear step forward for New Hampshire
New Hampshire educators have seen the results of the commitment to deeper learning in their classrooms. White Mountains Regional Superintendent Harry Fensom says,
Educators see the value in the Common Core. It’s going to close the gap. It’s going to reduce the need for remediation. It’s going to make kids better prepared for college.
Whether benchmarked against previous state standards or the world’s best education performers, the new standards are seen as world class. The widely-respected Massachusetts standards served as a benchmark for the Common Core and Massachusetts quickly adopted the new standards when complete.
In math, students get a deep understanding of fundamentals of “numeracy” and problem solving that will prepare them for Algebra in the eighth grade – and Algebra II, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus for those who seek STEM related college programs and careers.
The English standards require close reading and argumentative writing, using literature and classics in the English classroom and informational texts in courses throughout the school. Students use reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills acquire knowledge in texts ranging from classic myths and stories from around the world to America’s founding documents, foundational American literature, and Shakespeare. (Details here)
The Common Core is a state initiative, supported by the U.S. Education Department
The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers led – and continue to lead – the standards initiative. Starting 2008, the New Hampshire Department of Education, our educators and their unions joined teachers, parents, school administrators, experts and state leaders from across the country to develop the new standards. Coordinated by our Department of Education, over 200 New Hampshire teachers met in every region of the State to provide Common Core feedback. One participant wrote to the department at the time, saying, “After reviewing the specific improvements that were made, I am speechless: the public draft addresses almost all of our teachers’ concerns.” In addition, Dr. David Pook, of the Derryfield School and Granite State College, helped write the English standards, reviewing 10,000 comments from educators and others all over the country. Development of the Common Core standards was a highly participatory process in which New Hampshire educators played a big role.
In 2009, the U.S. Education Department began requiring rigorous standards for schools receiving federal “Race to the Top” funds or waiving the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Contrary to popular belief, the federal government did not mandate adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Virginia, for instance, received its No Child Left Behind waiver in 2012 and continues to use its widely respected Standards of Learning.
New Hampshire’s educators, however, saw the Common Core State Standards as a clear step forward and adopted the new standards long before applying for a No Child Left Behind waiver. The new standards are so far superior to any alternative that, if the federal requirement were removed, New Hampshire’s commitment to the Common Core would continue.
The new standards maintain New Hampshire’s tradition of local control
The standards are grade-by-grade learning goals for our students. They do not include curricula, lesson plans or any direction about how teaching should be done. And they do not include required reading lists.
Schools and districts all over New Hampshire have begun using the Common Core standards at their own pace and in their own ways. No two classrooms look alike. Many New Hampshire teachers are finding ways to draw upon existing materials to create deeper, more challenging Common Core lessons.
Our students’ personal data is protected
There is no risk to student data privacy in New Hampshire. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium agreement with the federal government stipulates that state law governs data privacy. In addition, the Consortium will issue a “Privacy of Student Records Policy” that will affirm that member states control the data that the Consortium collects; and the Consortium will use industry best practices to ensure that data are secure.
And under New Hampshire’s strict student data privacy statute, RSA 193-E:5, student data is tightly controlled. Among other important protections, the statute provides that, “Under no circumstances shall personally identifiable information or the unique pupil identifier be provided to any person or entity outside of New Hampshire.” Student level data is only seen by specified individuals at local school and district level, by the testing company scoring student performance and by a select few NH Department of Education employees charged with ensuring the accuracy of student data. The Legislature monitors this process. (Details here)
The costs have proven to be small
The NH Department of Education analysis has shown that the costs of implementing the new standards and the assessment are comparable to the normal cost of updating of materials and professional development, and well within the costs covered by federal training funds.
Reports back from New Hampshire teachers and districts that have implemented the standards confirm that the cost has been low. Teachers have brought the new standards into their classrooms, with extra effort, but in the normal course of their work. Even technology required for the assessment are not substantially greater than needed to support the school’s needs for the rest of the year.
As one school board chair said,
It’s really back to basics – real math and English learning. We’ve been committed to the Common Core for three years now and are excited about the results we’ve seen.
Here is more detail on the cost of implementing the Common Core.
Are the Common Core math standards “developmentally appropriate” for Kindergarteners? It depends, as always, on who’s teaching.
Opponents say that the Common Core standards, especially the math standards, are not developmentally appropriate for Kindergarteners.
But many New Hampshire Kindergarten and early grade teachers are using the math standards successfully. When I ask, they say that Kindergarteners can definitely achieve the goals set out in the standards, under the right conditions. One condition is that the child is prepared – meaning that she’s attended high quality pre-K or her parents have provided a rich environment full of words and numbers.
The second requirement is that she must have access to full day kindergarten. We know that frequently is not the case, particularly for low income students. But it appears that, at least partly, it’s about preparation, not something inherent in a five year-old’s stage of development. So a state’s early childhood development policies are the issue, not really the Common Core or any other standard.
“But,” many say, “5 year olds need to play and discover together. They need social and emotional development, not academic instruction.” This is not really a Common Core issue either. It is a long-running debate that predates the Common Core and will probably go on for a long time. Some schools, including many Montessori and Waldorf schools, are better at combining play and learning than others. And some teachers are. So there’s real pedagogy involved. But it doesn’t appear to be an issue of what a 5 year-old is developmentally prepared to do.
There’s an unusual editorial in today’s New York Times. It’s all about how to interest more kids in math. It’s long and detailed, with numerous recommendations on which the editorial board asks for feedback. And the paper has put in place an elaborate feedback mechanism with which to categorized respondents and their answers. They are obviously trying to generate a real discussion and, based on the comments so far, it seems to be working: the initial comments are constructive, not polluted with the usual internet sarcasm and snark.
So give it a try. Here, to whet your appetite, are a couple of the recommendations:
A More Flexible Curriculum
The Common Core math standards now being adopted by most states are an important effort to raise learning standards, particularly in primary and middle school, when many students begin to fall behind. They encourage the use of technology and applied thinking, moving students away from rote memorization. At the high school level, they would introduce all students to useful concepts like real-world modeling. But the standards also assume that all high school students should pursue a high-level math track, studying quadratic equations, transformational geometry and logarithms. The standards need more flexibility to ensure that they do not stand in the way of nontraditional but effective ways to learn, including career-oriented study.
Yesterday’s PISA results will be the subject of a lot of debate and analysis but one exchange illustrates how rich the discussion can become when it goes beyond positional warfare: Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish education guru, Alan C. Jones, a commenter on a blog, and New Hampshire teachers all go beyond the usual debates about the evils of testing to talk about meaningful learning for students.
When perennial education leader Finland lost its top spot in the PISA scores this year, Pasi Sahlberg, said (quoted here on Diane Ravitch’s blog),
Finland should not do what many other countries have done when they have looked for a cure to their ill-performing school systems. Common solutions have included market-based reforms, such as increasing competition between schools, standardization of teaching and learning, tougher test-based accountability and privatization of public schools. Instead, Finns must protect their schools from the Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) that has failed to help schools to get better in other countries.
The better way for Finland is to ensure that schools are able to cope with increasing inequality, that teachers have tools to help students with individual needs, and that all schools get support to succeed.PISA results are too often presented as a simple league table of education systems. But there is much more that the data reveal.
….see the full post here.
That led to this very interesting comment by Alan C. Jones:
What Mr. Sahlberg is pointing out is the distinction between what Fenstermacher & Richardson (2005) have named “successful schools” and “good schools.” Successful schools require a quantifiable outcome that is evidence of student learning. Good schools focus on the process of education —balanced curriculum, ambitious teaching, inclusive environments—and let the test scores take care of themselves.W. Edwards Deming, the father of TQM, (who incidentally warned that his methods should never be applied to education), warned of the danger of end point measurement systems. Even in the private sector, Deming noted, the focus on quantifiable outcomes can distort the processes designed to produce quality. The shame of the accountability movement is taking away from children the opportunity to learn in a joyful and meaningful school environment — a good school. In the pursuit of successful schooling, administrators and law makers have been victimized by end point thinking. We will never be able to link what teachers do in classrooms with some quantifiable outcome. What we can do in schools is make every effort to make a child’s experience in school a meaningful one—the processes that teachers are pursuing in Finland.
New Hampshire teachers make the same point. Angela Manning, 5th grade teacher at Portsmouth’s New Franklin Elementary School, said,
“Our teachers are saying, “Ok. This is a standard that we have to teach and we’re going to make it applicable to our students so it’s meaningful. How can we make it best for kids’ learning? The bigger things that are coming out of Common Core are that the thinking required will benefit these kids.
When it comes to testing, that will take care of itself.”
Susan Pimentel specializes in writing educational standards and was the lead author, along with David Coleman, of the English Language Arts Common Core standards. Heather Driscoll helps New Hampshire schools organize and improve their curricula and worked closely with New Hampshire’s Department of Education to gather feedback successive drafts of the standards from teachers all over the state. They tell the story of a highly participative process in which teachers had a very loud voice.
Here’s Susan Pimentel describing the process. And, below, from a recent interview we did, Heather Driscoll describes how New Hampshire participated in developing the Common Core standards.
Susan Pimentel on the standards writing process
The New Hampshire experience in writing the standards
Early stage phone calls
In May of 2009, the National Governors’ Association and Council of Chief State School Officers (the education superintendents and commissioners) started to get Achieve working on the standards. They had six months to put their first draft together.
All during that time – and all the way through until the final standards were released a year later – the authors would hold regular feedback calls with the states. People on the phone from around the country represented the different stakeholders – curriculum specialists, teachers, administrators.
There’s a lot of effort this year to discount the PISA results, but here’s a great, constructive interpretation of what PISA actually tells us.
We’ve seen a move in recent months to pre-reject the latest results (and here) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). However, I have found PISA and the analysis based on it to be honest, rigorous and thoughtful, providing valuable insight into (not dictates about) education policy.
For instance, here is “Lessons from PISA for the United States,” by the OECD. There’s no rhetoric or spin. It’s just trying to help figure it all out. Then there’s Marc Tucker’s book, “Surpassing Shanghai” – detailed, a little wonky but very readable and a valuable contribution to the education policy discussion. Based entirely on PISA data.
And, finally, there is Amanda Ripley’s new book, “The Smartest Kids in the World.” I’ll be writing much more about this but, in the meantime, if you read one book about education, read this one. It flows like a novel, tells real stories of real kids and their schools and provides honest, smart insights about what’s really going on. And her research touchstone is PISA and Andreas Schleicher, the creator and head of the PISA program.
So there it is. I don’t buy the anti-PISA meme. And in that spirit, here are two first takes on the results. The first, from Andrew Rotherham at EduWonk, suggests we take a deep breath and look at the results with some perspective
The new PISA results are out. Usual suspects saying the usual things. Few things to keep in mind.
- Bottom line: The sky is not falling, but the ceiling may be closing in on us some. But we don’t need international comparisons to tell us we have serious educational problems here.
Delaware teacher slams lousy implementation of the Common Core, thinking other states must do as bad a job
Contrast the experience of this Delaware teacher with that of the many New Hampshire teachers who speak out here. You’ll hear this same complaint about highly scripted curricula based on the Common Core in other states as well, like New York. But when you see how the Common Core is implemented here in New Hampshire (and Washington state, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina and many other states), you realize that bad curricula are not a Common Core issue but a matter of poor education leadership.
Don’t make the mistake this teacher does of universalizing her experience:
I used to do many fun, innovative projects with my students. My students have owned and managed their own businesses, written children’s books and read them to younger students, done year-long literature studies on specialized topics, hosted project fairs, and an array of other student-created, choice- driven projects. They have designed, researched, written and read beyond their peers. My high school students were required to read 25 novels per year…yes, even the ones with learning disabilities could meet this goal with the help of assistive technology. Meeting and exceeding standards has always been my goal.
Last year, however, my performance appraisal listed me as “satisfactory.” What has changed? I’m still me. I still bring the passion, dedication, and years of experience to the classroom that I always have.