New Common Core Standards: No more meaningless questions. More “why” and “how.”

Today’s AJC.com has a long piece on the new Common Core Standards and what they will mean to Georgia classrooms.

We began this discussion lat week on the blog with a piece by a high school English teacher on the amount of writing expected under the new standards.

Here is the view of another English teacher on the new standards and their implications for the classroom:

I am an English teacher and department chair at one of the better suburban high schools, and I think I am ahead of the teacher who wrote you in response to the English/Language Arts Common Core Performance Standards. I have watched, on my personal time, the four long hours of “webinars” from the state DOE on how the Common Core will change our English curriculum, and, other than the structure of my units and the quantity and quality of reading assignments my students will now have to master, the work load I will manage under the Common Core is not much different from the workload I already manage—which is already almost unmanageable and my biggest class has only 25 students.

The writing requirements are not as daunting as the numbers on the curriculum map make them seem; according to Susan Jacobs—the talking head in the webinars—we don’t have to grade them all. We can require that students maintain a notebook or writing portfolio, and that they keep up with their written work, but we don’t have to assess it all by a rubric, if at all.

The one big difference I see is that the Common Core will finally put to rest the mindless assessments that ask meaningless questions: no more will the color of a character’s shirt on page whatever matter—not that it ever did—unless the color is symbolic or relevant to some bigger purpose than to see if the students remember something insignificant.

“What” is of little importance, buy “why” and “how” are central to the Common Core and to our students. Furthermore, analysis and synthesis are central to the CCPS and to our students’ ability to function in an age of technology, media, and easy access to information.

Another major difference, and one I favor in theory, will require more full length nonfiction informational texts, two per year, but many schools don’t have these sitting in our bookrooms, so funding is one of my unanswered questions. Jacobs suggested that many texts are free online, and that is true, but all students don’t have access to electronic readers or media—even in affluent schools.

We will still do process writings, we will still require revision, but we can’t and won’t be grading eight to 10 process writings each nine weeks. We will do research, we will step away from memory based assessments and move to text based, open book, assessments where students will analyze and synthesize texts and explain their learning to us in writing, but no more than we always have, unless some of us haven’t been doing all that we should have been doing all along (I’m talking about those of us with somewhat manageable student loads—fewer than 125). I can see us doing three to four process based writing products per semester, but even those don’t all have to be full length essays.

English teachers with more than 125 students will need to be creative, but, if they plan well, even they can manage this and stay somewhat sane as long as they don’t have too many more than 125. English teachers with more than 150 students, however, are victims of a broken system, as are their students, and I have no idea how they will manage to raise the standards and manage the crowds, much less engage their students meaningfully, five to six times a day, five days a week, for 180 days. For them, I will pray because I have no answers and no advice; for them, any curriculum standards will require more than they can meaningfully master.

Here is the link to the webinar.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

55 comments Add your comment

irisheyes

April 30th, 2012
12:34 pm

One of the things that I am discovering as I start to prepare for next year is that having standards that are the same throughout the country is making is much easier to find resources, especially on the internet. I’ve found resources created by teachers all over the country that are tied to the common core, and I’ll be able to download them and use them in my own classroom. While I’ve spent more time studying the math standards rather than the language arts, what I’m finding is that the standards seem to be narrower and deeper. I don’t feel like I have to cover a vast quantity of material, but I’m going to have the chance to dig deeper into it to ensure that my students understand. At least, that’s my viewpoint now. Next year, when I’m elbow deep in them, my opinion may change.

Dr. John Trotter

April 30th, 2012
12:43 pm

This is all about changing the playbook. It doesn’t matter if there is an NFL Playbook being used, if there hasn’t been the two-a-day practices, the off-season workouts, and the requisite talent on board, then the best NFL Playbooks will not matter. Sorry, but I get so tired of the last “common core” this or “common core” that coming down the latest educational pike, as if they are going to make any difference. I railed against QBE in 1985 and 1986, saying that it was not going to improve education, but was really going to harm education. I was right. I said the same thing about NCLB. All this stuff is like moving pieces of furniture in the parlor, hoping that the change in the furniture’s location will surely keep the top of the house from blowing off when the worst tornado of the century hits town.

Listen: It will not matter. Just let the teachers teach. They know more than all of the educrats what their students need. They are in the trenches every day. Each class is even different. All of this cr*p coming from State and Federal educrats is one of the main things which is ruining public education. Get out of the dang way and let the teachers teach…and without all of the obnoxious snoopervision. © JRAT, April 30, 2012.

Attentive Parent

April 30th, 2012
12:43 pm

“we don’t have to assess it all by a rubric, if at all.”-so what will prevent students from practicing bad habits until they are thoroughly engrained. Formative assessments that form a mediocre core that constrains the ability to think well through print?

Do you know how many times I have come across the statement over the last few months that with Common Core we are moving away from an emphasis on print literacy?

And moving away from memory? So under Common Core the human mind’s conceptual abilities, one of the most miraculous achievements in the universe, will be an unoccupied hotel? It’s enough if the material is in a database somewhere.

Just use a search engine. Emotional engagement and social interactions with others are the real points of the Common Core deception.

And I listened to the Hunt Institute tapes on Common Core this weekend. Coleman and Pimental are 2 more in contention for a Pinocchio award unless they are just relaying what someone told them.

Another comment

April 30th, 2012
12:43 pm

I believe that the teachers in Georgia are scared, because they know that Georgia has been dumbed down too long. I really don’t see any difference to this than what I learned in English Regents level courses in New York State in the 1970’s. It gave me a very good foundation. New York State outside the City of New York has always been made up of numerous high performing small districts. New York State is made up of quaint Villages, within Townes within the Counties. Very few of the middle class and above have lived in NYC once they have had beyond elementary age children. UpState and Western NewYorkers are like completely Different States from those down state or out on Long Island or in the City. Many in New York State live their whole life without ever going to New York City. But one thing the whole state has from Bayside, Scarsdale, Sarnac Lake to Williamsville and East Aurora a system of Independent high performing high schools. All tied together by a Common Core Curriculium with a Central Junior year testing mechanism.

I know, so a little poor girl from Wales, NY can out score a rich kid from
Scaresdale, NY on the Social Studies portion of the Regents exam.

The biggest difference is that New York State has never tried to falsely pontificate that all children can go to college. The know that some children need to be left behing to run the dairy and organic farms. they need to run the fractional oil drilling equipuipment in the middle or the state. They need to learn the culinary arts to the serve the visitors to the big apple. So New York state has always had a General Diploma and offered a Vo-tech 1/2 day option for Jr. and Seniors.

Aquagirl

April 30th, 2012
12:53 pm

where students will analyze and synthesize texts and explain their learning to us in writing

Sure they will. Good luck with that, Ms. Anonymous English Teacher.

Math teacher

April 30th, 2012
1:15 pm

Yawn, another fad. Let me close my door so I can teach.

TimeOut

April 30th, 2012
1:21 pm

I was educated in Rochester, NY. I understand exactly what “another comment” is presenting here. I wish that my students could have what I had. I do believe that my K-12 education, completed at Gates-Chili High School, was excellent. When I did not succeed, it was a result of my own lack of effort. I had all of the requisite opportunities. We should stop trying to re-invent the wheel. There are plenty of quality approaches available to us, domestic and international. Let’s become the Finns from New York……yeah, that should do it…………only, we won’t. Education in Georgia is a cash cow for so many. Cronyism, nepotism, etc. rule the land here. So, we will continue to share the fate of those states whose systems are also run for the benefit of politicians, everybody’s nephew, best buddy, favorite back-scratcher, etc.

FCS Lit Teacher

April 30th, 2012
1:37 pm

One part of the new system that I don’t quite seem to understand is why there is such a push for long informational texts? 99 percent of informational texts that students, and adults, encounter will be no longer than a few pages. How often do people read long pieces of non fiction? Whereas pieces of fiction, Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Hamlet, etc., have timeless ideas and concepts, non fiction quite often is only meaningful for a short period of time. Schools will spend a good chunk of money on texts that will be dated quickly.

William Casey

April 30th, 2012
1:43 pm

DR. TROTTER’S 12:43 post is right on the money. In 1990 I began calling this syndrome “Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic.”

school_is_home

April 30th, 2012
1:47 pm

What I find tragic about this is that “average” children should know (at least 4 of) their shapes going into pre-K. They should be able to construct grammatically correct simple sentences before 3rd grade. They should be able to add negative numbers (yesterday I borrowed a pencil, today I borrowed 2 more, how many pencils do I owe you?) sometime during 3rd grade. I’m not sure I understand the hue and cry about Common Core. What in the world were they doing before that?

My disdain is not for the teachers, nor the administration. Parents where have you been while your children have been robbed of a challenging elementary education? Compare what children in the British system are learning at equivalent grade levels. I think what’s been allowed to happen in Georgia is very sad. My hope is that the schools will send letters to the parents informing them of the curriculum for the up-coming year and pointing them to resources to help those who are interested be ahead of the curve. The onus should be on the families and students, with the educational experts serving as guides. I’m thinking the role of teacher might be thought of more akin to that of the guide who helps you avoid the huge crevasse and counsels you on conditioning vs. the experienced person in the tandem skydive where all the student does is screams while they enjoy (or are petrified) by journey to the ground. Didn’t plan it that way, but yes, one of them goes up and the other goes down.

Once Again

April 30th, 2012
1:48 pm

More micromanagement, more failure. Why do you continue to subject your children and yourselves to this continued abuse? Don’t they deserve better than to be educated by the state? Doesn’t their future and their ability to learn mean more than egalitarianism, conformity, or meaningless possessions? Sorry, didn’t mean to point out the obvious.

mathmom

April 30th, 2012
1:51 pm

The common core covers the topics for all of high school, but not all states will cover those topics in the same order. For Georgia students, there are not yet any textbooks that follow Georgia’s adopted curriculum for mathematics. – as a result, Geometry students, for instance, will need an Algebra book AND a Geometry book. It’s not really a national curriculum. It’s really just another way for publishers and consultants to make a boatload of money.

Beverly Fraud

April 30th, 2012
1:52 pm

Why won’t Matt the Mouth Organ at DOE ask the VERY fair and legitimate questions raised by the English teacher in the previous post, ESPECIALLY the query about taking SEVENTY TWO 8 hour working days just to grade papers?

Is it because he doesn’t have a fair and legitimate answer?

teacher

April 30th, 2012
1:56 pm

While I do think this will improve things in a low performing state, it is still the federal government placing their will on states and local boards of education.

bu2

April 30th, 2012
2:03 pm

Attentive Parent
Some of this has given me the same concern. If a doctor doesn’t know a lot of facts, he can’t analyze and make a good diagnosis. He doesn’t even know there is an issue.

College is really about ways to approach a problem and trying to get enough knowledge in your profession to know the right questions to ask. But its assumed the student already knows where we came from and has a lot of basic facts. I’m all for teaching the children about the how and why. But they need to understand the what before how and why make any sense.

America’s treatment of Indians looks just like pure evil, unless you understand what the Angles did to the Celts in England, the Mongols and Huns did in Europe, the Swedes did in Poland…. and that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. You need a context of facts. How can you understand control of nuclear weapons if you don’t understand the fear of the 50s and 60s of nuclear annihilation and of a time when schools didn’t just have fire drills, they had fallout drills?

bu2

April 30th, 2012
2:08 pm

A lot of things are being pushed to younger ages. I just hope they are not starting at the end and rolling back, but are actually analyzing whether these things are age appropriate. The brain changes. My observation from when I was a student was that 7th graders were a huge step below 8th graders, especially in math. There are some things younger children just aren’t ready for. And some things like languages, they are more ready for.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

April 30th, 2012
2:35 pm

@school_is_home…I think the concept of negative numbers is an extremely abstract one. The idea of “owing” someone a pencil makes some concrete sense to kids; the idea of -2 + 1 = -1 is a whole different ballgame.

I share bu2’s concern about pushing curriculum down into younger grades, in particular in mathematics. It is my opinion as an educator that the vast majority of students being pushed into Algebra 1 concepts in 6th and 7th grade are finding themselves with HUGE gaps of understanding once they reach Preacalculus and Calculus in later high school years. Any good math student in middle school can be taught the rote concept of, say, factoring polynomials or solving quadratic equations. The fact that solving these equations gets you to the idea of “Zeros” or “X-intercepts” is a big leap in terms of REALLY understanding the mathematics.

In my experience, it is the exceptionally rare student who benefits from such acceleration. I’m concerned with 4th grade students multiplying and dividing fractions and really UNDERSTANDING what they are doing, especially with such a large number of elementary school teachers being so uncomfortable with mathematics.

Beverly Fraud

April 30th, 2012
2:50 pm

DR. TROTTER’S 12:43 post is right on the money. In 1990 I began calling this syndrome “Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic.”

Ah but William and Dr. Trotter. The problem wasn’t that they were rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; the problem is they weren’t rearranging the deck chairs with RIGOR.

Rigorously.

Beverly Fraud

April 30th, 2012
2:54 pm

If they want to examine a math concept that relates to something in COMMON with all 50 states, why don’t they teach test erasure analysis?

Call it Common “Rotten to the” Core.

And where pray tell is Matt the Mouth Organ?

Inman Park Boy

April 30th, 2012
3:02 pm

Souinds like someone has read her Bloom’s Taxonomy!

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
3:17 pm

I think the state and federal DOE could close and every public system collapse, leaving us with a pot of money and nothing but private schools to give it to, and you folks would complain. Every thread on here becomes little more than ultra-conservative ranting against anything that uses the term “public”…I think you’d go off about public restrooms if you didn’t need one every now and then.

As to the topic of the thread- yes it’s a lot to adjust to, BUT it is manageable and I THINK, based on what I see so far, that it will help with critical thinking. I can’t believe we would actually defend teaching to a test anyway, but that seems to be largely the consensus on that thread, so have at it. I’ll keep teaching kids to think and write to show me what they know.

thomas

April 30th, 2012
3:26 pm

It’s sad that Cobb had to pay so much money — aren’t there people at GSU, GaTech, KSU, etc. who know enough about the Common Core? Do people from other states somehow know more about the CCSS?

Just Saying

April 30th, 2012
3:31 pm

I accidentally posted this on a previous thread, but it is meant as a response to this one.

Oh well! The state has money to implement these standards but not enough to keep schools open or teachers employed. The only Common Core I care about is how I’m going to pay my rent. If anybody really cared about schools in this state, they’d realize that implementing these changes in curriculum won’t matter at all when there are no teachers in the classroom. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I foresee a time (in the very near future) when Georgia (and possibly the entire nation) will face a huge shortage of teachers. These students who are borrowing vast sums of money for their educations are not doing it to become school teachers. They have seen how teachers are treated. Oh, and by the way, the common core material is pretty darned simplistic!

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
3:31 pm

“Ah but William and Dr. Trotter. The problem wasn’t that they were rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; the problem is they weren’t rearranging the deck chairs with RIGOR”

Okay, now that’s funny after a day of teaching! :-)

Old timer

April 30th, 2012
3:33 pm

I agree with many postings here. Dr. Trotter…spot on. The math comments, also. Children are being asked to do algebra and they are not masters of adding. Many of the math concepts being heralded as new and more challenging was what we taught in 6th grade math. These were easy to teach…if they had learned 4th grade fractions and5th grade decimals. And BU2…..in order to understand history and science, I agree…you must learn some basic what’s or there will be no understanding.

Unclefast

April 30th, 2012
3:38 pm

I’m retiring in three weeks from teaching in public school, and I sooo hope my grandchildren can go to private school.

Attentive Parent

April 30th, 2012
4:40 pm

Bu2-The Common Core implementation documents make it quite clear that we are dealing with largely fact free instruction. I call it the Common Core Deception because the gap between the PR rhetoric to gain approval and the intended activities in the classroom is so great it meets the classic case for fraud. But this is all I have worked on all day for almost two years now. Reading, documenting, archiving, and writing.

RonF-If the planned implementation is not what has been claimed and I have tracked it back to the actual goals and they say over and over again that Common Core is simply a means to stealthily change American society, its political structure, and its economy, I get to be concerned. One of my other blogging names is Student of History. I know what the tragic history is behind these ideas. I didn’t go looking for a conspiracy but if people say they are conspiring I don’t have to ignore it either.

That’s not an indictment of public school. We have self-interested parties trying to use the public ed system as a means for selfish, tragic ends. I can wait, watch, and then describe what happened. Or I can try my best to sound the alarm.

My Titanic metaphor is that I want us to slow down and negotiate the icefield in the daylight with widespread recognition of what is really being implemented under the banner of Common Core.

If public officials and public employees are treating us all as serfs and using education to bolt on those collars for life, we have every right as taxpayers and voters to know that is what is going on.

Atlanta Mom

April 30th, 2012
5:18 pm

“we don’t have to grade them all.”
And exactly would be the purpose of many assignments that go ungraded? How long will it take students to figure that one out?

Atlanta Mom

April 30th, 2012
5:19 pm

ooops, exactly WHAT would be the purpose

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
5:26 pm

“My Titanic metaphor is that I want us to slow down and negotiate the icefield in the daylight with widespread recognition of what is really being implemented under the banner of Common Core.”

Attentive Parent: You just got a collective AMEN from teachers for that! :-)

I agree with caution. All the ed. reform movements out there are gaining steam and not one of them is fully explained, researched, or guided by more than someone’s self-interest. I think you’ll find that many, if not most, teachers agree that the pace is not going to yield the results the authors claim. However, we’re all but powerless to do much about it. Many admins get on the bandwagon because of their position and desire to keep it. Change is needed, but we need to do so very carefully.

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
5:29 pm

Atlanta Mom @5:18: What that means is you gather several writings from a child and choose one or have the child choose the one he/she wants you to grade carefully. Personally, I plan to choose one aspect (grammar, spelling, format, etc.) to grade on any writing a kid puts into his notebook. I’ve taught writing for many years, and often as a teacher you let kids assemble several pieces and choose the one they believe best represents them to grade in detail. They should get a grade for anything they attempt.

Ashley

April 30th, 2012
5:46 pm

I took Algebra when I was in the 8th grade (1971) at a time when most students took it as a 9th or 10th grader. The saying goes that the next generation should be smarter or more advanced than the previous one. If that is the case it would only stand to reason that 6th and 7th graders are taking Algebra 1 or some type of advance math. We shouldn’t be afraid to push our children or think they can’t learn at an accelerated pace, that kind of thinking keeps US children behind the curve and well below the norm when you compare them to children in other nations.

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
5:55 pm

“We shouldn’t be afraid to push our children or think they can’t learn at an accelerated pace”

If you look at the typical bell curve of scores on any tests, there is that group above average that can, and should be accelerated. The problem is that we expect every child to keep up with that pace without time to teach basics they didn’t get earlier. I don’t have a problem with acceleration for those who need it, but how do we teach, for instance, basic addition and subtraction of fractions to those who don’t know it when the curriculum map says to teach equations? Part of the achievement issue we see now is that a significant percentage of kids are weak in fundamental skills and they’re sitting in classes where they’re expected to be far beyond those skills and they’re holding back the kids who need to be moving faster. It’s a catch-22.

Attentive Parent

April 30th, 2012
6:01 pm

Ron F-I can assure you what I have is fully researched, documented, explained in ordinary English with illustrating examples that get at the essence of what is out there.

Yes I do have a strategy and a gameplan on what to do and how to do it. And when I get done we will have a genuine autopsy of what was really going on before. We can decide in the daylight of indisputable facts the best way forward for the broadest level of prosperity for the largest number of Americans possible.

It’s going to be an interesting summer.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

April 30th, 2012
6:46 pm

I don’t think I said that we need to fear acceleration for the exceptional child. I think that, on the contrary, there are a very few very advanced students in mathematics who benefit from acceleration in elementary school as well as middle school.

It’s important to note that the abstract nature of algebra, and then calculus following it, are linked. If you miss the “why’s” of algebra, then trying to integrate or differentiate in calculus is so much more difficult–and certainly, if we’re expecting students to do Algebra 1 in 6th or 7th grade, calculus is the expectation down the road. No other options, really.

Students who are rushed through mathematics in the middle school years miss a lot of the important rules–division = multiplication of the reciprocal, no dividing by 0, fractions = 0 if the numerator = 0 no matter the denominator, etc. Those are abstract concepts; there’s nothing concrete to tie it to. And when you are 11 or 12, that abstract reasoning skill is not nearly formed well enough for the MAJORITY to reason accurately through algebra.

That’s why, for some kids who accelerate early in mathematics, they cruise until they hit precalculus. It’s also why, some kids who struggle with Algebra 1 in 8th grade find more success in Algebra 2 when they are in 10th or 11th grade.

Of course, that was back in the day of Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2. Can’t imagine how math is being impacted now.

bu2

April 30th, 2012
6:46 pm

Ron
You’re right. One size doesn’t fit all. Not everyone is cut out to be a STEM student. Not everyone who can wants to. Unless you are in science or engineering, you don’t need Calculus. I took 2 semesters in college and have never used it since. I’d say for most its better to have your algebra later so that you will remember it.

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
6:53 pm

bu2: I remember trying Algebra in 7th grade (back around the time of dinosaurs), and I didn’t get it. It finally made sense in 9th grade and math was great after that. My oldest could do it in his sleep in the 7th grade- my youngest, poor kid, might not ever really get it. The unfortunate outcome of “increased rigor” and “acceleration” is that we choose to push for far more, far faster than many can handle it. We’re always looking at how the Japanese kick our butts in math and science. They test and track kids based on abilities and don’t try to fit every child into college prep. curricula (which ends up so watered down the college folks are shaking their heads at us). Why is it common sense like this is so foreign to the decision makers? Beats me.

bu2

April 30th, 2012
7:04 pm

I started in a school district whose advanced math classes were simply more advanced versions of the standard Algebra, Geometry, etc. Later I transferred to a different school whose advanced classes were done a year in advance so I only took normal Algebra II and Pre-calculus. I was still very well prepared for College Calculus in the math department and had no trouble with it. I would have been terribly bored if I had actually taken Calculus in High School and wasn’t able to place out of it in college.

The point being is that we don’t need to rush everyone through to Calculus to get them prepared. We also don’t need to lose site of the socialization aspect of high school. Knowing things and being a good problem solver are not sufficient for success.

Public HS Teacher

April 30th, 2012
7:18 pm

bu2 -

I’m not sure that everyone really is rushing through to take Calculus in HS. I think that there is a segment of students in HS that want to take AP Calculus and it is provided (at most schools).

This is a good thing, especially when college costs are skyrocketing. Some students want to take these AP classes to try and get college credit….. and I don’t blame them!

I don’t know of anyone that tries to push students into a Calculus math in high school. I agree with you that doing so would be stupid. However, it would be just as stupid not to offer it at all.

teacher&mom

April 30th, 2012
7:29 pm

@Math Teacher: “Yawn, another fad. Let me close my door so I can teach.”

Be careful. I suspect those pushing the curriculum realize this is exactly what many teachers will do…which I believe is why there is a HUGE push to tie teacher pay to test scores. As soon as your scores drop, you will reconsider. If not, the “data” will show your “ineffectiveness” and you will be dismissed.

They’ve tied this up very nicely.

Anyone realize that our own Kathy Cox has played a major role in writing the Common Core standards? Dr. Stephen Pruitt, who worked under Cox at the GaDOE, followed Cox to Washington and he has helped re-write the new science standards that are about to be unveiled. From what I hear, he proudly announced at the GSTA conference that the scientific method is dead and will be replaced by the “Engineering Process.”

Brandy

April 30th, 2012
8:23 pm

I’d like to expand upon Concerned Dekalb Mom & Ron’s posts, but shift the focus to English Language Arts.

My biggest concern with the CCS is three-fold.

First, even in East Cobb, we get incoming 6th graders–even gifted ones–who cannot write a logical paragraph, let alone an effective sentence. Our students also routinely come to us under-prepared in grammar. We have to spend significant time teaching what should have been mastered in elementary school ELA classes because CRCT has led to an outsized focus on reading instruction over composition (and grammar) instruction in the elementary levels, despite these two areas being heavily emphasized in the both the CCS and current middle school ELA curricula. While next year’s incoming kindergarteners will (hopefully) not be under-prepared in composition and grammar, I have no doubt next year’s incoming sixth graders will be as they have not been exposed to the proposed curriculum for 5-6 years–they haven’t been exposed at all. Even in East Cobb. No matter how rigorous or research-based a standard curriculum may be, it will not work if it doesn’t allow for time to re-teach concepts that were not mastered, whether in years past or even from one day to the next. Just as we educators strive to accelerate instruction when necessary (for example, when a student or group of students excels greatly on a pre-test), we also know we have to go back and re-teach when necessary (for example, when more than 10% of the class scores less than 80% on a unit test or quiz).

Second, exposure does not equal mastery. Writing more does not mean better writing. Reading more does not mean more active reading. The best route to mastery of a single concept (or more generally, a number of interconnected concepts) is complete immersion in the material with significant time given to going back (re-teaching in a different way), making connections from current content or concept(s) to past ones, and modeling combined with pair or group practice and independent practice before independent performance.

Third, not only does exposure not equal mastery, exposure to on-level or above-level content does not necessarily further mastery. It is generally far better to teach a concept or skill and have students practice that skill or concept with content they find comfortable and “safe” before challenging them to apply the skill or concept to on-level or advanced content. This is why I usually introduce a concept or skill with a fairy tale, a popular (and G or PG rated) song, or story/article we have already read before moving to more challenging texts. Doing so helps students feel successful from the start and decreases student frustration. Does it mean I never challenge my students? Heck, no! When was the last time you saw small group 6th graders successfully critically analyzing “The Raven”, “The Highwayman”, or “The Charge of the Light Brigade”? I just chose when to challenge and when to stick to comfortable and “safe” wisely and creatively based upon my knowledge of my students as individuals, test scores, likes/dislikes, warts, and all.

What I have seen of the GPS’ CCS materials for middle school ELA is appallingly similar to what I was working with in Maryland, just not as scripted (in BCPSS, we were told what to do down to the page we had to be on at what time on what day): the sheer amount of “tasks” required to be completed in the given time precludes effective re-teaching, reviewing, and sometimes even accelerating and overemphasizes quantity over quality. No matter how wonderful the content, just loading more and more of it upon the students will not improve performance. In fact, it very well might lower it by increasing frustration and boredom levels.

My hope is that as we begin to implement these standards we will adjust the curriculum to reflect reality and true best practices. I sincerely hope Cobb’s take on the proposed curriculum from GPS will be wisely adjusted–several of the 6th grade tasks either do not support the standards listed or do not connect together effectively, the selected materials are not tiered appropriately for differing levels of students in each grade, etc.

Brandy

April 30th, 2012
8:27 pm

Sorry, that was far lengthier than I intended. If you want the nutshell version here it is:

exposure does not equal mastery and when quantity is emphasized, quality suffers

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
8:27 pm

“No matter how wonderful the content, just loading more and more of it upon the students will not improve performance. In fact, it very well might lower it by increasing frustration and boredom levels.”

Truer words were never spoken. Now if I could just come up with a standard for that and a CRCT question to assess it…. ;-)

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
8:29 pm

Brandy, the long version was much better, but the nutshell about says it all, doesn’t it? The kids I work with are so lacking in basics that it’s almost laughable to hear some of their teachers lament that they can’t get the material they’re teaching at breakneck speed. Small wonder it is that they lose interest in school and I have to spend so much time just convincing them to hang in there and try while I shore up their basic skills. Rigor isn’t just more content, is it? Seems like common sense to me.

northatlantateacher

April 30th, 2012
8:41 pm

Teacher&Mom has it right. They have tied it up nicely.

Attentive Parent

April 30th, 2012
9:00 pm

Teacher & Mom-Yes Kathy Cox is also on the Board of the Data Quality Campaign along with someone from Ga DOE and Kati Haycock among others. Michael Barber of McKinsey who hired her to DC was heavily involved with gutting the UK ed system when he was Tony Blair’s Ed Secretary. Very similar story to Common Core in the US now. Reform in the name of higher standards in math, reading, and writing. It actually made things far worse and the real emphasis was on changing values and feelings and emotions and especially the need to promote all things green and sustainable.

Even if they are not particularly green or sustainable without constant govt subsidies and no matter how devastating to the economy. Barber is also the person who recommended Cambridge Education in 2007 when it was still just in UK begin doing School Quality Reviews in the US, starting in NYC. They have been brought into Fulton County this year to gut the transmission of knowledge in Fulton schools getting ready for that charter. I guess it’s money well spent if the only ones left to blame or in town temporarily.

And I have been tracking the Science standards and it is not science in the way traditionally understood. Not surprised he said that. I have ACHIEVE correspondence from late 1990s explaining how to game the states into accepting whatever they push as being internationally competitive without any real backup for their claims. Their words, not mine.

I can’t imagine why I am such a skeptic.

Brandy

April 30th, 2012
9:04 pm

@Ron F., Thanks! You are exactly right and I have to admit that we already begin seeing kids shutting down by 6th grade. In middle school, perhaps more so than at any other time, you really have to keep the kids engaged and interested if you want them to learn anything.

@Teacher&Mom, You are so right on it is scary! I love being creative when devising (and revising) lessons–and my proudest moments are when my students are able to creatively and accurately respond to a question or text. They routinely remind me that very little in life has only one right answer. Anyone else hear about the “Pineapple’s Don’t Have Sleeves” problem?

I have been sad over the years to see creativity being legislated out of education. I fear CCS and GPS’ take on it is just the next wave of the de-creative-ification of education. Instead of changing methods of the instruction, why not change the mode of the assessment(s)?

chronologically gifted

April 30th, 2012
10:14 pm

Usual AP conspiracy theory spinning. I doubt she has read the CCSS – or if she has, she understands any of it.

Attentive Parent

April 30th, 2012
10:36 pm

Really chronologically.

Why don’t you tell Maureen’s readers what the relationship is between the CCSS and the Shell Centre?

I have a whole chapter that lays out what the Standards say juxtaposed with the actual implementation interpretation.

My definition of understanding probably differs from yours though. Mine is grounded in facts and logic. Which is not at all what Common Core means by understanding.

It’s just outcomes based education all over again. Except phases 2 and 3 this time.

And this time we are going to talk about why we always come back to OBE. What the real end game was originally and is now and how they connect.

Fun summer indeed.

Ron F.

April 30th, 2012
10:53 pm

Attentive: don’t give away the ending…I like a good surprise (not that there’s one for this story unfortunately). I trust you’ll notfiy of the publishing. Sounds like it might be a good read, regardless of political “side” or affiliation.