Common Core: A New Way to Teach


The Common Core State Standards have been approved and accepted for ELA and Math (with Science and Social Studies currently in development), and that means big changes for those of us in the education field.  This post will serve as just an introduction to Common Core, but over the course of the next year I’ll be sharing a lot more on it as we journey down this road together.

To begin with, let’s correct a common misconception about Common Core: it is NOT an attempt at a “federal standard” established by the federal government.  Common Core was initiated and designed by individual states – and at this point in time the majority of states have adopted the CCSS (this link will show you who has and who has not adopted them) and, more importantly, North Carolina is one of those states.

In order to fully appreciate the CCSS we need to recognize this is not just a re-working of the old way of doing things (ie, a rewording/reordering of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study).  The CCSS is a fundamental redesign of the expectations laid upon us as educators – they focus not only on what students should “know” but also on what students need to “do”.  This is achieved by designing skill sets for students to master, not simply information they need to memorize.  The CCSS  strive to answer the key question: Are all students college and/or career ready when they graduate.  Fundamentally, they will transition us from preparing students to succeed through school to preparing students to succeed after school.

Here’s some information directly from the CCSS homepage you may find interesting:

These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.

Here’s a very effective analogy I heard recently: the traditional standards are structured more like a step-ladder or staircase, where students learn one concept then move up to the next concept then move up to the next concept, etc.  This causes problems in education because if students fail to master a concept or are never exposed to it there is a gap in their learning.  The CCSS, however, can best be thought of as a circular stair case where students travel both up and around: up in terms of learning more advanced concepts and skills but around as they learn those basic skills throughout their entire K-12 years.  For example, under current standards we don’t think of teaching algebra to 2nd graders, but the CCSS are designed so that throughout the 13 years students spend in public education they will learn algebraic concepts every year at developmentally appropriate levels.

If you’d like more information about the CCSS please visit their website at http://www.corestandards.org/.  A great primer on the standards (and why they are needed) can be found by clicking here and a list of common myths regarding the standards is available here.

(Cross posted from the Pitt County Schools Race to the Top/Staff Development blog)

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