Common Core: An Intro from Gradeable

Painters' tape Gradeable calendar doesn't lie, folks.

Painters’ tape Gradeable calendar doesn’t lie, folks.

Hope everyone’s ready for some Common Core talk because this week is all about THE CORE.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are learning standards adopted by 40+ states that sets the bar for where students should be at each grade level.  Right now, the Common Core measures mastery of math and reading by taking a more contextualized approach — it’s about understanding over memorization. The CCSS encourages thinking and deeper understanding over memorization. Think of word problems in math — how the numbers actually relate in the real world.

Kirby, a Teach for America (TFA) teacher who spent a year with Common Core described the core standards with a good example. When you teach a second grader to subtract by borrowing, say 21 – 8, you show them how cross out the 2 and make the 1 an 11 and take 8 from 11, but we don’t exactly tell them why. He called this teaching them algorithms instead of concepts. With Common Core, students are encouraged to work in groups and come up with how to subtract 8 from 21 themselves.

So this movement is sweeping the country. Like all changes that blanket an entire nation, the Common Core has its controversies. Right now, we’re in that awkward transitional phase. Since the standards build on each other (5th grade instruction builds off 4th grade, which was built off 3rd…) 5th graders being introduced to the Core are caught in no man’s land with no support from what they should’ve learn from the grades leading up to 5th.

Another issue is that the Core demands a new level of rigor that some students, teachers, and parents aren’t prepared for. Imagine scrapping the whole borrowing thing while teaching subtraction? Every student has to reinvent the wheel and teachers are expected to teach it without showing them a circle. This adds more pressure and work for teachers to come up with new, more challenging lesson plans, and sometimes with the lack of support needed for effective CCSS instruction.

On the other side of the coin is that Common Core is meant to make that high school diploma count. Kirby, who taught in Nevada,  the 50th in the nation in education said the Core was initially developed to standardize the testing accountability on a national level. The “accountability movement” started in the 1990s because the US was behind other countries academically.

The standards for math and English (released in June of 2010) are only about three years old so, like I said, there’s an awkward transitional phase. And this is where Gradeable comes in. Recently our team developed standards-based grading functionality with the Common Core standards pre-loaded.

So what does that mean for you? It means when you’re giving a quiz / test / assessment, you have a tool that will keep track of how that quiz (or whatever) measures a standard. Did question 2 assess third grade reading and listening standard number 1? Well, go ahead and drag the [3R . RL . 1] tag onto that question and by the end of your grading session, you’ll have a nice portfolio of how your students are doing with [3R . RL .1] Come report card time, Gradeable will have all your standards measured with the artifacts to show where your grades came from.

Are you teaching to another set of standards? Well first, I can’t believe you read this far, and second, we’re working to help you assess standards-based grading. If you’ve got a unique set of guidelines to teach to, we’d love to help you streamline the assessment part of it.

Next Thursday, we’re having a pizza party to demo the new functionality and eat all the free pizza we got from Domino’s. If you’re in the Boston area, come by and try out the new functionality. We’re all ears for feedback, insights, and suggestions from the teachers who are actually using the tools.

Don’t feel like nerding out on a Thursday night? Well come enjoy wine and our quirky company. Teachers like wine and jokes, right?

Here’s the eventbrite. And as always, please share your Common Core thoughts. Whether you love it, hate it, struggle, or embrace it, I wanna hear your teaching tales!

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