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.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog