Friday, January 20, 2012

Common Core Standards - The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

 ***Don’t miss Dr. Lisa Leith’s webinar, “Common Core Standards: Equity and Opportunities” on January 31st!***

In regards to the Common Core Standards, the good news is great, the bad news is terrible, and the ugly . . . well, it’s unthinkable. Whether good, bad, or ugly, the Common Core Standards are exactly what we make of them, and the Standards depend entirely on how we map them. 

Allow me to explain.

 The Good

Our first charge vis-à-vis the Common Core is to redefine the connotations behind the word “standards.” Do we have a common purpose? Are we working toward the same goal? If so, then we have a standard. Gone are days where we live from class period to class period, praying that enough of our students pass. If we are measuring students on a pass/fail rubric, then we are intentionally labeling some students as failing.

The Common Core Standards give us an opportunity—a choice—to reclaim the classroom and the learning process and do what we are so passionately involved in doing. But the Common Core Standards as they are written on paper are useless—I repeat, useless—without a breathing, customizable plan or map that changes year by year or even day by day to answer the needs of our students.

The good news is that teachers have more authority and power to mold a classroom around what they know they need to teach rather than following mandates. With effective curriculum mapping, teachers are using the Standards to turn classrooms around. For many it will require a different kind of pedagogy, philosophy, and strategy, but we have already seen enormous benefits from it.

The Bad

The bad news is not that students will be assessed according to the Common Core. The bad news is that teachers work in isolation, or at least they do not collaborate effectively and frequently. Teachers working in isolation cannot use the Standards or their curriculum maps to the fullest potential, and teachers are not using assessments to improve teaching methods.

The irony is that teachers work together across grades, subjects, and departments every day, whether they do so intentionally or not. The constant flow of students necessarily carries enormous implications, and teachers are not capitalizing on one of the greatest opportunities to intentionally impact student learning. The Common Core Standards—and sustained student learning—require teacher collaboration to survive.

The Ugly

The most unthinkable thing that we can do to our students is to simply comply with the Standards instead of embracing them. 

Compliance alone is indicative of not understanding how closely the purposes of the Standards are aligned with your own—to prepare students for college and a career. Issuing a book labeled with “Common Core” is not enough, because it will never answer the needs of each student. Love or hate the Standards as you will, but do not let your students’ education pass them by.

***Don’t miss Dr. Lisa Leith’s webinar, “Common Core Standards: Equity and Opportunities” on January 31st!***

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