Common Core Standards Call for Uncommon Shifts in Practices

Posted by Matt Berringer on January 19, 2011

By Dr. Bena Kallick

The recent report from the Center on Education Policy (PDF) provides a perspective on the key issues districts will need to deal with as they make a transition from their present work based on state standards to the common core standards. There are implications in the following four areas:

  • Curriculum— Most districts have been working diligently to develop a standards-based curriculum that is aligned both to the standards and the internal design. Many districts use curriculum mapping as their method for doing this work, realizing that it will be necessary to use technology in order to create a dynamic and responsive curriculum. The state standards have changed as educators learn more about what is required for students to make certain that students are “college ready” as well as ready for a lifetime of learning. The common core standards emphasize this level of learning with a particular emphasis on higher level thinking. This will mean some work on the part of the districts to do a cross walk between the state standards and the common core standards so that they identify three areas: (1) where are the standards of each the same (therefore no revision, just a replacement) (2) where are the standards moderately different (therefore some tweaking and moderate re-aligning) and (3) where are the standards new and different (new standards to be added and possibly replacing some standards that are no longer on the list (new units of study, new alignments).
  • Instruction— Teachers will have to learn new strategies for helping all students reach to a higher level of thinking. There will be more work on interpreting, explaining, reasoning with evidence, drawing conclusions, summarizing, and evaluating. Lessons will have to be designed that address ways for teachers to develop the curiosity, investigations, and innovative thinking that the common core standards call for. Use of technology as a way to stimulate students’ thinking will be an important aspect of new lesson designs.
  • Assessment— Although it has been economically efficient to measure with multiple choice and constructed response questions, there will be a need for more performance assessment. Districts may want to work in a consortium with other districts so that the design and scoring systems are developed with an eye for validity and reliability. There is a national committee already at work on this and new performance assessments based on the common core standards are anticipated in the next year. Students will need practice on this sort of assessment at the local level.
  • Professional Development— Much of what is described above will require thoughtful work on the part of the educators. Given how limited the resources are that schools presently have, there will need to be more ways to use technology to encourage social, online learning. Teachers will need to document and construct their curriculum, lessons, and assessments. There will need to be a library of practices that have been vetted for quality and accessible to teachers.

The common core standards will call for some uncommon shifts in practices. In order to take advantage of what is meant by “common”, we will have to find ways to document, analyze, evaluate and share what we are learning in consortia at the regional, state, and national level.

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Topics: Common Core Standards, center on education policy, staff development, education