4 Lessons Learned From Common Core Implementation

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


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So it’s been a few years since the Common Core, and wow, has it been a wild ride! Some states have dropped the CCSS altogether and replaced them with similar standards. Some still have the CCSS, but have opted out of the tests related to them. Parents are also choosing to have their students opt out from these high-stakes tests. Some teachers are reporting the rigorous learning happening in their classrooms, while others are concerned about the appropriate level of the rigor. Textbook companies have been called out on their true lack of aligned materials, and great teachers have been creating their own lessons and units to meet their students’ needs.

Throughout all this, schools and districts have spent a lot of time on implementing the standards. I’ve had the privilege of visiting many schools that are implementing the CCSS and have learned a lot from these visits. Here are some of my major takeaways for making sure that implementation works.

A View From the Front Lines

Ongoing and Job-Embedded Professional Development
I’ve asked teachers about the professional development they have received for CCSS. Those who are struggling received a “spray and pray” two-day institute (or similar) on the standards. We know this doesn’t work, and yet we still do it — and it has got to stop. Teachers deserve more. They deserve to be supported in an ongoing manner. Why are teachers bitter about these one or two professional development days? Because they know that they won’t likely receive much support afterward. Who wouldn’t be bitter? Those teachers who feel successful speak of instructional coaches that supported them, planning time to work on lessons and units with other teachers, reflection protocols, and common meeting times to look at student. This should be commonplace!

Clear Connection to Instruction
Standards themselves are abstract and not clearly connected to the how of teaching. Teachers who struggled were able to comprehend the standards themselves, but weren’t given tools to refine their teaching in order to meet the standards. On the other hand, those teachers who were successful received instructional tools like text-dependent questioning or close-reading strategies. Maybe their school implemented CCSS through an engaging model of learning like project-based learning or understanding by design. Here instruction was the focus, and teachers knew how to align to the Common Core through practical strategies and curriculum design.

Focus on Assessment, Not Testing
Although the high-stakes tests were in place, I found that many schools didn’t focus so much on these tests. Yes, they embedded test-like performance assessments and similar practices into their curriculum, but they focused more on great assessment practices. They assessed how their students were learning and used that information to inform their instruction. They helped their students set goals, and they set clear outcomes for learning. They created their own more engaging assessments of learning. They focused on what assessment should be, not how to react when it gets out of hand.

Leverage Teacher Leaders
Capacity building, focusing on teacher leadership, and telling great teacher success stories can build a culture of success. I visited some schools where, in addition to providing professional development to all teachers, they asked for volunteers and selected teachers to serve as leaders. These teachers in turn would lead professional learning, invite other teachers to visit their classrooms, and build exemplar lessons and units to support their colleagues. Here, the implementation was sustainable. Now there was a group of highly-skilled teachers who would remain to carry on the work, and their skills were honored and leveraged.

The Right Way
Frankly, using the implementation of the CCSS as a case study, I think the ideas above should be considered no matter what initiative or focus is being introduced within a school or district. All teachers should know how professional development relates directly to their practice. All teachers should be given practical tools for implementation. All teachers should receive ongoing, embedded professional development. They should be leveraged for their expertise and leadership. And finally, we should focus on assessment and move away from our focus on standardized testing.

I urge all leaders in the education field to live up to these practices as they lead their teachers, schools, districts, and states in implementing new teaching practices and methods.

The 5 Keys to Successful Comprehensive Assessment in Action

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


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Assessment is the key to good instruction. It shows us what students know and allows us to adjust our instruction. Assessment is tied to learning goals and standards, but students must own the assessment process as well, as they must be able to articulate what and how they are being assessed — and its value. But what does this look like in a unit of instruction?

In this post, I’m going to walk you through how I have used the 5 Keys for Comprehensive Assessment (see Linda Darling-Hammond in the video below) in my unit on Informational/Explanatory Writing so that you can see how comprehensive assessment is not only possible, but also great teaching and learning.

1. Meaningful Unit Goals and Question
I began with the end in mind when I planned this unit. In terms of assessment, we as educators must know what we want students to achieve by the time they leave the unit of instruction. If we don’t know where we are going, we may or may not get there. I want to make sure that all of my students succeed, so I must know those goals for all students.

Many of us are driven by standards. Whether those are Common Core State Standards or other important district- or school-level objectives and outcomes, we must make sure that our units of instruction are aligned to them. For this unit, I wanted to focus on what many consider power standards on Information/Explanatory Writing. Specifically I used these Common Core standards:

“Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.”
“Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.”
“Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility of each source, and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.”

To frame the unit and provide relevance, I provide an essential question around the power of media. It’s something my students experience every day, whether listening to the radio or other music industry outlets, watching TV shows or news, or streaming online media. The question I gave them was: “How do advertisers trick us?” I wanted them meet the writing objectives I had set out through a relevant issue that they would find meaningful.

2. Summative Assessment Through Writing
Since the intent of the unit was to assess writing standards, I knew that they needed to provide a well-written product. In this case, I could still provide them with some choice. Additionally, the standards I chose had to do with evidence, and so they needed to do research, cite evidence, and make sure that it aligned to their ideas in their written product. Some students chose to write a traditional essay, while others chose to write a letter to someone they knew, and perhaps bring some awareness to a larger audience. Even though there was choice in the written products, there was a common, standards-aligned rubric that could be used to assess all the products to ensure that all students were meeting the same outcomes.

3. Performance Assessment Through Presentation and Portfolio
It is important that we allow students other modes of showing what they know, and we can also use these performance assessments to assess different learning outcomes. In fact, students were able to show some of their content knowledge as well as speaking and listening standards around collaboration and effective presentation. They got to choose how they would present their answer to the essential question, whether by a podcast or a Prezi formal presentation. It allowed them to go deeper and express their creativity with the content. Performance assessments like these allow us to check not only for engagement, but also for deeper learning through 21st-century skills.

4. Formative Assessment and Feedback Along the Way
There were many benchmarks that allowed my students and me check for understanding of both content and skills. Great teachers formatively assess students all the time and may not even know it. In this case, some formative assessments were formal (a draft or outline), while others were more informal (interview questions, discussions and exit tickets). All of these allowed me to know where each of my students was in the learning process, as well as make instructional decisions. Some students needed more one-to-one feedback, while others were ready to move forward. I was able to make differentiation decisions and work smarter through small-group instruction and whole-group instruction.

Students were also given specific, timely, and actionable feedback through the formative assessment process, with peer critique, teacher critique, and even outside expert critique on their performance assessments. Formative assessment allowed students to experiment and, yes, sometimes fail. However, they were given the tools, both through feedback and instruction, to improve and move forward to success.

5. Student Ownership of Assessment Process
What has not been mentioned is the voice that students had in the overall construction of the unit and the assessment. When I first asked what they would be interested in learning more about, they mentioned commercials, adds, media, etc. Together we brainstormed some ideas, which I then transformed into an essential question. Already mentioned was that students did have some choice in the summative and performance assessments. By providing choice, more students were able to own how they showed what they knew. In addition, I gave them the rubrics early in the assessment process to set goals, provide meaningful feedback, and self-assess and reflect. The goals were transparent so that they could be agents in their assessment, rather than passive observers.

Any great unit of instruction can include these five components of effective assessment. These methods mean that assessment is no longer done to students, but with them, putting the focus on the student and learning. Although students are awarded grades, they are rewarded through being at their best and coached through their challenges.

How are you using assessment to empower students to own their learning?

Teachers are Learning Designers

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


Late in 2012, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post that articulated what I really feel should be and is a role of great teachers. Great teachers are “learning designers” who seek to create a space where all students are empowered to learn. I was further inspired to rearticulate this idea when I saw this video from Sir Ken Robinson:

Empower Yourself
For so long, teachers have been disempowered to design. With prescribed curriculum, overly strict pacing guides and the like, teachers have been given little to no opportunity to innovate and design for learning. Personally, this was and is my favorite part about teaching — the opportunity to design and be creative, to design learning that meets the needs of my students, to try new things — and perhaps the opportunity to fail. Great learning models and structures have the space for teachers to design for their students while still remaining within the framework. Whether it’s a driving question for a PBL project, a mini-task in an LDC unit, an instructional scaffold for a UbD unit, or a assessment for a GBL unit, teachers still have — and must have — the space that empowers them to design. If we want our students to be empowered, then we must model this empowerment to be a learning designer. If you haven’t designed or been given the space to, this will be difficult. Look for spaces that can challenge your design thinking about what a learning space can be.

Stop Blaming Kids
There is one pitfall in Sir Ken Robinson’s metaphor of teachers as gardeners and students as fruit. If you misunderstand this metaphor, you might think that it puts a heavier onus on students. It does not. If your students, like plants, are struggling to grow, perhaps it isn’t them. Most likely it’s the conditions that are being created for students. Now of course, there are many conditions creating opportunity for growth that may be beyond our control. In fact, you might conduct a Realms and Concern Influence protocol with other staff members to see what you can influence about a particular student. That being said, there is always something that teachers can do or design to create the seeds for growth. Look for opportunities to design rather than fearing roadblocks.

Revise and Reflect
As I mentioned earlier, if students are struggling, it’s a great opportunity to revise and reflect on the learning design. Ask yourself:

Are more voice and choice or self-directed learning needed?
Should there be some differentiation?
Perhaps there could have been more formative assessments?

These are just some of the questions I ponder when students are not successful, but there are a whole lot more. These are also some of the questions that colleagues ask me, which goes to show that revision and reflection is a collaborative process as well as an individual one. Related to this, don’t be afraid to fail. Consider it “failing forward,” and continue designing amazing learning experiences for students. Also consider using protocols to help you reflect on your work in a safe space with colleagues.

Teachers, be empowered to become learning designers for all students. We need to look for these opportunities to design, but we also need to reflect on the current learning designs in our classrooms. Just as our world and our students are always changing, so must our designs for learning!

Tips to Relieve Your Common Core Pain Points

 

This post originally appeared on InService, the ASCD community blog. ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization with 160,000 members in 148 countries, including professional educators from all levels and subject areas––superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members. View Original >


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While implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), many educators—both in leadership and in the classroom—are experiencing some bumps along the way. This is to be expected, but there are some specific “pain points” that are leading to common areas of need.

Here are some of the most common pain points we see as we work with districts and schools across the country, and a few ideas to relieve them.

Pain Point: Ensuring common practices and strategies for implementing the CCSS in the classroom

Expert Tips: Of course, we want to make sure we are all on the same page in building a common understanding of what effective implementation looks like. At the start, you should understand that the standards aren’t the whole curriculum. Then assure that your curriculum is aligned to the standards. Also, have teachers and leaders identify specific instructional practices and strategies that will be used in all classrooms. These can be schoolwide practices that are already working, as well as new practices that will support student learning. Make sure that these practices focus on teaching for understanding, and that everyone really knows how to use them with fidelity. Through modeling, demonstration and lab classrooms, and effective use of reflection and feedback, the entire team will be on the same page about what the selected practices “look like” and how to use them.

Pain Point: Using formative assessment effectively while implementing the CCSS

Expert Tips: Just as there needs to be a common understanding of instructional practices, there also needs to be a common understanding around the use of classroom formative assessment practices. Make sure teachers are integrating formative assessment for learning and checking for student understanding practices into what happens in the classroom on an ongoing basis. What the standards are requiring of students makes a balanced approach to classroom formative assessment even more important. These formative assessments should include self and peer assessment, performance tasks, projects, and constructed responses. In addition, formative assessments should support students in making the leap to apply what they have learned to new and different concepts, situations, and subject areas. Whether your state is a member of PARCC, Smarter Balance, or developing their own summative assessments, adopting a balanced approach to schoolwide formative assessments will help ensure student success.

Pain Point: Including schoolwide, collaborative, and job-embedded professional learning practices supported by teachers and leaders

Expert Tips: It is crucial that staff members are given time to learn together and to collaboratively develop units, lessons, and assessments aligned to the CCSS. These collaborative opportunities also help to build common instructional practices and classroom “look fors.” Part of making sure collaborative work is successful includes the use of selected protocols for examining student and teacher work and creating instructional decisions as a result. The use of common protocols across the school helps to build community and keep the focus on instruction and student learning

Pain Point: Integrating the use of technology effectively while implementing the CCSS

Expert Tips: It’s easy for technology integration to become fluff, rather than targeted toward effective instruction and assessment. Make sure to align technology to formative and summative assessment best practices. Use technology to increase collaboration in professional learning. Also, make sure that technology is used to enhance the common instructional practices that have been agreed upon by the professional learning community. The standards require instructional rigor that supports integrating technology tools in the classroom, so make sure you are targeting technology integration practices aligned to ensuring intentional learning. Create policies that support the use of technology as a tool for opening classroom doors, encourage collaboration and classroom visitation, and build a community of sharing and learning.

Common Core in Action: How One Art Teacher is Implementing Common Core

 

This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >

 


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Last month, I wrote about two science teachers who are implementing the Common Core Standards to teach their course content in conjunction with the literacy skills called for in the Common Core. These teachers gave a great context for the implementation, plus some great tips for those of us who are just getting started on that journey. We know that the literacy standards are content neutral. In fact, the content can be vehicle for learning critical reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. What if that content was art?

Art and Literacy
Cheri Jorgensen is an art teacher who is part of the Battelle STEM Innovation Network, and who also learned how to use the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) approach to implement literacy in her art instruction. She decided to refine a lesson she had done in the past when she wrote the module for content in her Visual Art 1 and Advanced Art courses. The writing task she created for students was:

After researching the Analysis stage of Feldman’s Steps of Art Criticism on the Elements of Art and the Principles of Design, write a 14-point bulleted list that analyzes how each of the Elements and Principles are used in an artwork from your Keynote presentation, providing evidence to clarify your analysis. What conclusion or implications can you draw? A bibliography is not required. In your discussion, address the credibility and origin of sources in view of your research topic. Identify any gaps or unanswered questions.

In addition to addressing the Visual Arts standard for elements of art and principles of design, she developed an art criticism module to work on these specific Common Core standards:

Common Core Anchor Standards: Reading
R.CCR.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

R.CCR.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

R.CCR.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

R.CCR.6: Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

R.CCR.10: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Common Core Anchor Standards: Writing
W.CCR.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

W.CCR.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

W.CCR.5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

W.CCR.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

W.CCR.10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Finding the Right Fit
Cheri reflected that building this intentional literacy module into her instruction was not a huge stretch:

“I think art teachers by nature include literacy as well as other academic subjects into their lessons because they are a natural fit . . . Reading and writing within your own subject area is the easiest way to incorporate literacy.”

Here Cheri was very intentional with her choices of literacy standards and scaffolding, and she found the right fit.

“I have always included both reading and writing in my art class. Students write artist’s statements with each major assignment and research and study art history and art criticism. The difference in using LDC is that there is a more specific focus on literacy already built in to the lesson.”

Cheri implemented this art criticism unit near the end of the school year after students had learned the elements of art and principles design, including color, color harmonies and balance. However, she built in specific scaffolding activities that helped revisit the art content and build the specific reading and writing skills. She had students journal on the seven elements of art and seven principles of design, analyze Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” and participate in presentations and discussions on the content. She also scaffolded the writing process for students, recognizing the reality of implementing literacy standards in the content area — it needs to fit and be purposeful.

Although literacy is important to every subject, teachers are still responsible for covering their own subject matter, and that has to remain the focus of the lessons.”

Do you or your colleagues incorporate ELA into art curriculum? Which Common Core standards do you bring to the process?

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