Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Take-Aways About the Common Core State Standards

**This month's newsletter comes out this week--topic--CCSS--just the beginning. Sign up to your right. 

Yesterday, I attended a day of training from ASCD and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction on the new Common Core State Standards. There's one key aspect they discussed at the beginning of the presentation, and I'll devote tomorrow's blog to that specific point.  Other than that, here's my major take-aways, with my opinion in italics:

1.  The CCSSs help answer the question:  how/why am I ever going to use this. Not sure that all students will agree, but hopefully it's better than before.

2. A set of common standards helps because expectations shouldn't be determined by a student's zip code. I have always thought it was unfair that depending on where a student lives, he or she gets a better or worse education--when I was teaching in the early years of the standards movement, our state definitely saw a positive change in this area.

3. It's critical to look at appendices in the standards--the Language Arts appendices include text and writing samples. They made the point the text samples should not be used as required reading lists, etc. The materials are Lexile-based, and that is both positive and negative.  There are very positive aspects to Lexiles--full disclosure, when I was working on my Ph.D., I worked with Metametrics on Lexiles--but it is critical to understand that they only look at one aspect of text difficulty.  Teachers must use their own judgement concerning developmental appropriateness, interest, etc.

4. There is a series of video vignettes available on YouTube and on the CCSSO.org website (choose digital resources) These appear to be helpful for a basic understanding.

5.  The national PTA has resource guides for parents--www.pta.org/parent guides.  These look GREAT!

6. No matter which of the two assessment systems your state is using (PARRC or SMARTER Balanced), check out the resources for both. This seems smart, given the information on each site.  Also, many states have not decided which to use.

Most of the rest of the day was NC specific, but it was interesting to listen to principals, district administrators, college professors, and teachers discuss their perspective.  Their major concerns:  more resources needed, especially time for teachers to work together; information about the assessments and how that will impact what they need to do; technological resources such as bandwidth in smaller/poorer districts to ensure the online testing will work; and clear communication with colleges to prepare future teachers AND to clarify if the changes will have college admission implications.

All in all, an informative day, and one in which I was able to talk with great educators making a difference for students.  And that makes it worth it.

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