After several meetings in the last few days, I’m getting the feeling that the shift to CCSS (Common Core State Standards) is going to be pretty….epic (to use the modern teenage vernacular). Let me walk you through some of the concerns and things I’ve heard.
1. CCSS look more at the LEXILE score of a texts to determine whether or not it is rigorous enough for a particular grade level. (By the way….B&N has a cool lexile tool to help you locate books for kids and young adults!) The argument here is the texts we are currently using in our classrooms are books we like to use instead of books we should use. Now, this isn’t always the case. Plenty of us ELA people are sticking to the canon with our adamant use of The Scarlet Letter and The Outsiders, but some of us (myself very much included) have adopted the belief that we can teach the standards using easier texts. I do this because I was of the ideology that if the kids enjoy what they’re reading, they’ll get into it more, and we’ll actually have some dialogue as a result. But the CCSS belief is that rigor is more important, which means we need to teach texts at a higher lexile score to better prepare kids for college level reading.
2. Along with the texts, the “recommended texts” in the Model Curricula (while still only recommendations) are highly recommended texts. Because nobody knows what the future state assessments will look like, nobody can say for sure whether or not these texts will be testable materials, but do keep the text titles in mind for use. DO NOT RUN OUT AND BUY ALL OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUR DISTRICT–That would be jumping the gun at this point.
- Another sticky point about CCSS is the distribution of nonfiction to fiction reading and how much reading is to be done in the other content areas. I’ve always been a believer in the “We’re ALL reading teachers” philosophy, despite what every cringing history teacher may think. We do, though, all teach reading in and for our own content areas. The CCSS expects that by the 12th grade a student will be reading approximately 70% nonfiction and 30% fiction. Current ELA curricula is typically VERY fiction-heavy, so this will be a big transition. The rationale is that reading and writing (which is also to be done in ALL content areas in CCSS as it is the most interactive, student-focused form of critical thinking and analysis) need to be relevant and connect to a student’s 21st century skills. Fiction, unfortunately, does not meet that need. It is currently undecided whether that 70/30 distribution applies to just what is read in English classes OR if it applies to what the student reads in all classes. I would have to say that it HAS to be across the contents because I don’t see how an ELA teacher could cover all the literature-based (versus informational text-based) standards if 70% of the texts studied have to be nonfiction.
3. You (yes, you, teacher, administrator, parent, friend, whomever) need to be getting familiar with the model curricula. Some of the areas/grade levels are still in their draft stages, but some (ELA) are complete. If you are preparing yourself to move to the CCSS (whether your district is planning to do it or not), you could start by looking through the model curricula as you work your way the 2011-2012 school year. For example, if you are getting ready to teach citing evidence and finding sources, look up that section in the model curriculum and try to start incorporating some of those resources and methods. I, honestly, think the model curriculum is fantastic because it does provide SO MANY resources and strategies for teaching the various standards. (*I keep hearing that people have a hard time locating these documents–did I give you enough links for them??*)
- These documents also include help for differentiating instruction. Cool, eh?
- When will ALL of the model curricula be available? From what I’ve heard, the Ohio Department of Education is hoping to have them completed by the end of the summer.
- Why is it taking them so long? They’ve been doing some serious budget and, consequently, human resource cutting recently.
- Is my school behind already? I don’t know anything about any of this stuff??? Well, that’s why you have me collecting these resources and handing them over to you (not to mention storing them in one centralized location for my own future reference and use!). EVEN IF YOUR SCHOOL IS NOT ON BOARD YET, YOU ARE THE INSTRUCTIONAL LEADER OF YOUR CLASSROOM.
4. I also keep hearing that some units are going to have to change grade levels, and anytime you tell a teacher she has to stop teaching a unit she has been teaching for years, there is going to be an issue. I can’t give specifics on this because I haven’t spent enough time looking at the crosswalks, which are documents comparing the old and new standards, but I know the disparities are big enough to cause a lot of people to start convulsing.
5. Two groups are currently in the running to create the standardized assessments (and there will be several types within a single grade level) for the new standards. The first of these is SMARTER Balanced and the second is PARCC. Both groups offer summative (assessment OF–end result) and formative (assessment FOR–ongoing) assessments. SBAC offers a computer-based adaptive test, meaning the answers adjust as the students gets questions correct or incorrect, but PARCC is not adaptive. Whose going to decide which group gets to run away with all the money? Your guess is as good as mine, but from my meetings, I can report, “The decision will come from the highest form of government.”
- Don’t have the computer resources for a computer-based standardized assessment? Yeah, I don’t either.
- Wouldn’t it be best to have the test before we start implementing curricular changes? Well, no, because those standardized tests are going to bite us in the butt if we don’t start preparing for them now. Inherently, our standardized scores are going to look awful across the board in 2014 when we make the transition, but these new assessments are literally going to be dumped on us suddenly, and we need to be able to say we’ve been getting ready for them.
- When is the decision going to be made? No clue.
6. If you or someone you know if thinking about kinds of professional development to offer or attend in the next school year, you should definitely think about formative assessments, using data to guide instruction, and improving the Tier 1 instruction as you continue to work toward implementing RtI–not implementing RtI yet? Here’s a blog where I discuss it briefly, but if I get around to it in the future, I’ll definitely write a little more. A teacher’s role in the CCSS has to be to see student needs at the individual level, so keep the PD on that track.
- Also, at one of my trainings I saw a poster from OLAC outlining the MANY PD offerings and courses they have online. I believe if you are a RTT district, you can take these for free. So, definitely check those sources out.
- Can’t afford PD for your district? Start looking within your district. Your teachers are experts. Find out which teachers are good at which areas and have them run small training groups during one of your staff development meetings or days. Do you have a teacher who is great with classroom management? Offer for that person to “teach” a training session to people who want that kind of training. (*Desire is key here. PD works best when people are willing and want to learn*) Is another teacher excellent with incorporating 21st century technologies? Allow that person to teach a class. Short soapbox: We spend so much money in our school district bringing speakers in to talk to large groups of teachers. Whatever they say dissipates before it can make its way back to implementation. With our financial crises, we need to make use of the professionals in our midst. Our teachers know what they’re talking about (sometimes!), and they know what they need help with. Let’s utilize this to develop our staff.
Without looking at the pages and pages of notes I’ve been taking and the sites and sites of resources I’ve read and bookmarked, I think those are the major issues. If you think of anything you would like me to find out, let me know!