Reading Reflection: Understanding Common Core Standards

I started my reading list this week with Understanding Common Core by John Kendall. I’m currently developing my course for Powerful Learning Practice on using Common Core and integrating 21st Century skills, so I’m approaching all of these texts from that perspective.

After completing the first three chapters, I have to say I agree with a lot of Kendall’s points.

  • I see a clear need for a common plan. Kendall talks about the benefits of everyone being on the same page and how important it is for our students. It allows teachers to know what to expect when students come into their classroom which allows them to use their time more efficiently. 
  • I used to worry that the common core would tell teachers what exactly to teach and how to teach it, but Kendall points out that this is not the case. He says “…it is more important than ever for teachers to creatively engage students with effective instructional strategies and adapt content to the needs of individual learners. If standards establish the “what” then teachers determine the “how.”” 
  • Another benefit that Kendall points out is this: “…Common Core State Standards are specific enough that districts will not need to rewrite them.  Thus, more effectively a lesson plan addresses  a Common Core Standard, the more valuable it is and the more exchangeable it is.  As a result, educators’ support networks will expand considerably”. At a time when more and more teachers are turning to the internet and creating personal learning networks, I see a wealth of information being shared and teachers having many places to turn for lessons that will work in almost any classroom. 
  • The Common Core has also been set up to cover 85% of the total standards that states my put into place.  This allows the state to add content, but Kendall points out that states might want to wait to add extra content and allow teachers to use that “extra” space to transition from previous standards to the Common Core. 
  • According to Kendall the Common Core also allows schools to move from Carnegie Units(measuring achievement by hours spent in the classroom) to a more individualized plan for the students, that allows them to move on as they meet certain standards. He provides an example of a school that is doing just that and states “Clear, shared descriptions of expectations enable schools to personalize the learning experience for each student while showing that the students have reached a standard expected of everyone.”
Some things that stuck with me through the second half of the book: 
  • Assessment, for some reason I had envisioned that high stakes test would stay the same, that kids would be tested once a year on all of the standards that they were supposed to meet. (Which I do not like at all…) While reading though, I learned that there are two consortiums are currently working on assessments, the Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Each of them are approaching the assessment in a different way. After quickly looking into both consortiums, it looks like they have each begun piloting the future assessments, and have sample questions available. (PARCC Member States, SBAC Member States). There is so much information available for these different consortiums and I want to learn more, so I’ll probably try to do separate posts on each. 
  • The Crosswalk activity and transition documents, I think these activities would be helpful to teachers as they make the transition from their individual state standards to Common Core. As a former classroom teacher, I have in the back of my mind that feeling of..another thing to add to the to-do-list…but I think these are ideal activities for professional development, where teachers can work each other and talk about what they are seeing and brainstorm together.  I think they would be more powerful if it was a collaborative effort and not something assigned to teachers. 
  • Kendall pointed out several organizations that have developed supportive materials for educators implementing Common Core. 
I finished the other half of this book fairly quickly. I had been kind of skeptical about reading a book about Common Core and honestly, I thought I would struggle through it. That wasn’t the case at all, Kendall is straight to the point and clear with his explanations. I also discovered a wealth of resources that I will be able to use as I develop my course. I think any teacher that is working on the transition to Common Core would find this book helpful. 

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Filed under Common Core, education, John Kendall, Reading Reflection

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