Here, via conservative Rick Hess’s Education Week blog, is Kathy Powers, a reading and language arts teacher at Carl Stuart Middle School in Conway, AR – Arkansas teacher of the year in 2011 – talking about the Common Core.
We have all heard Common Core bashing. Statements like the Common Core will “undermine student individuality, teacher autonomy, and mark a dangerous takeover of local control.” Unlike many of the Core-bashing voices, I am a classroom teacher with actual experience teaching with Common Core, and I beg to differ.
Education is one of the most local endeavors in our country. The students and their families are local, most teachers are local, and many educational decisions are made by local school boards and district administrators. That works well for the most part, and it would all be fine if all our students had to do was compete for local jobs or college positions with just their local peers. However, those of us who are parents of high school seniors know that our children are competing for college positions on a national level and jobs on an international level. Our children already experience national measures of the SAT and the ACT, so we need to make sure the curriculum has the rigor to prepare them well no matter what community they are from.
read Kathy’s whole post at My Common-Core Classroom – Rick Hess Straight Up – Education Week.
Here is a great article from EdSource, a California group dedicated to improving teaching and learning. Although CA could not be further from NH in every way, this whole story about how the Common Core math standards are affecting K-3 teaching in CA sounds as if it could have come from Sanborn, Whitefield, Portsmouth or many other NH school districts.
A particularly good story comes at the end of the piece:
Juh’Ziyah Atchinson, 5, was one the students who couldn’t seem to get it right. Dawson, who has been trained in a method of teaching mathematics called cognitively guided instruction, was more interested in understanding why Juh’Ziyah kept counting bears twice than he was in correcting her. The idea behind this method is for teachers to build on a child’s existing knowledge about math to guide them to the correct answer, rather than quickly correcting them. Instead of simply telling Juh’Ziyah to only count each bear once, Dawson started a conversation with the little girl to determine if she even understood that basic counting rule.
Path of discovery
“I’m not an imparter of information,” Dawson said later. “I want my children to discover.”
Getting them to discover often means conversations where Dawson simply says out loud what he’s seen a child do – “I noticed you counted a few (bears) twice.” Observations like this are meant to make a child reflect on what she has just done and hopefully learn something new by being directed to focus on the actions called out by the teacher.
A readable description of how a specific Common Core math standard improved this teacher’s instruction – MA teacher Bridget Adam
Here’s a Massachusetts teacher comparing the MA standard for teaching manipulation of fractions to the equivalent Common Core standard. She discusses the specific standards and how the improved Common Core standard changed her teaching for the better.
In the years before the Common Core was adopted by Massachusetts, I used direct instruction to teach operating on fractions. Specifically, I taught dividing fractions only using the standard algorithm. I would present the steps to divide fractions, as a class we would come up with a way to remember the steps (KCF- Keep, Change and Flip), practice as a group, and then students would spend a day or two proving they were proficient with the computation. My students were masters of precision, rulers of proficiency. But, my students often struggled to determine if a word problem inferred division because they only had practice computing with fractions, and not understanding or applying division of fractions. The picture of the assignment is from a classwork I gave just a few years ago.
Cicely Woodard has the daunting task of helping eighth-graders understand and even enjoy math. Five days a week, she leads her students at Nashville’s Rose Park Magnet Middle School through the intricacies of graphs, formulas and equations. It’s knowledge she knows they’ll need to get into college.
Testing the Common Core in Tennessee
Helping struggling students: A view from one math teacher’s classroom
Even on tough days, she says, “There’s nothing in the world I would rather be doing.”
Woodard thinks her mission became a little easier this school year because of the Common Core, a set of education standards for math and English language arts that have been adopted by Tennessee, along with 44 other states and the District of Columbia.
“I am definitely a fan,” says Woodard, 35, who has been teaching for 11 years. “I am so excited by the thinking and the learning that kids are doing now, and the way that they are able to express themselves in the classroom. It’s really exciting to hear them talk and use all of the math terms to explain their thinking and construct arguments.”
Anatomy of an English class: How the Common Core is shaping instruction for one Miami teacher – Hechinger Report
Many NH teachers have found the move to the more demanding Common Core standards a challenging but invigorating change in their classrooms.
Here, from Sarah Carr in the Hechinger Report, is a Florida classroom where students are getting a similar experience.
MIAMI—English instructor Lois Seaman often speaks bluntly to her middle-school students about the increased expectations they will face under the new Common Core curriculum standards. “It’s like you are looking at this under a microscope; glean all you can from this text,” she told a class of eighth graders as they studied a passage from “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. “Common Core says, ‘Read like a detective and write like an investigative reporter.’”
Seaman’s students at Richmond Heights Middle School will still be tested on the old state standards this school year. But like many of her colleagues, Seaman has already started adjusting her teaching approach to meet the new standards. Here are a few of her strategies, culled from her own research and materials and guidance provided to teachers by the Miami-Dade school district and the state:
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.”
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.