“Common Core is a great idea and all,” said a teacher friend over the weekend. “But it’s a whole other beast when you actually get into the classroom and try to do it.” It is the age old saying of being “easier said than done.” For the intents and purposes of this post and our mission, Common Core is a positive thing. From where I’m sitting, I love the initiative to teach students to think on their own, to understand the “why” before the “how,” and simply to hold ourselves to a higher standard. But I am sitting behind a laptop, not in front of a classroom.
Successful implementation of the Common Core, like any big change, requires the support, enthusiasm, and manpower of everyone involved: teachers, administration, policy makers, IT, parents, and even students. As I mentioned in the Friday Bulletin Board, nothing will change if everyone is running in a different direction. Though one blog post cannot change your district policies or wifi connection strength in your classroom, I hope it can inspire successful implementation of the new standards where you are.
Some Common Core success stories…
Maybe it’s not as big a shift as you thought
CCSS is not as intimidating as you think. The goal of the CCSS is to create social, critical, independent thinkers — all things you were already teaching students. One librarian wrote that she “began to recognize where the information literacy skills she has taught for the past 17 years merge with the CCSS.” And while not everyone shared this librarian’s enthusiasm, Common Core implementation success might already be in your tool box.
Embrace the discomfort zone
EngageNY.org shares stories teacher success from New York, the land of Common Core outrage. One math teacher who traditionally taught one formula to solve a math problem began to teach other solution methods to deepen the level of understanding. At first, the advanced students were out of their comfort zone and didn’t know what to do without their equations. “ We had unconsciously created great math students who did not know how to think through a math problem.” By the completion of the lesson, students were engaging each other to discuss how they tackled new problems.
Explain the real world context
Another teacher on EngageNY.org was teaching language skills to college bound students. She started the school year off with having the students research what employers were looking for: “Number 1: Employers want employees that are critical thinkers. Number 2: Employers want employees that can communicate their ideas clearly to others.” With that, her students had real world context and motivation for what was going on in the classroom.
Use tools for your trade
I spoke with another teacher friend, named Ashlee, who teaches third grade in Pennsylvania who has adopted the standards. Ashlee told me that one of the tough parts of teaching common core was grading the writing exercises. Since the writing standards are so subjective (focus, content, organization, convention), she said it was hard to grade essays even with her rubric with grades from 1-4.
And that’s exactly where we come in. Though we can’t solve the administrative, political, and socioeconomic problems of Common Core implementation, we can help you assess your students. Gradeable now has a Common Core tagging system that has the standards preloaded. With our tool, Ashlee can tag each essay with “focus” when she see is it, add a mastery level if she wants, and then have all the standards analyzed in a chart — who’s doing well, which standards are mastered, which standards need work.
While I can’t argue there are fundamental problems with the Common Core, I do believe it’s a positive movement. We at Gradeable know that teaching is a tough job and we want to help in a way that works for you. We’ll continue to have these discussions and encourage you to share your triumphs and failures with us. How do you like Common Core? What types of problems do you face? What would you like to tell politicians who are deciding where to spend the money for it? Where do you need the most support?