Common Core Contributes to Howard High’s Success
This blog post was written by Julia Webster, Assistant Principal at Howard High School of Technology. She will be a panelist at the Vision 2015 Conference of October 17, 2012. To read more guest blog posts written by conference participants, click here.
There’s a lot of excitement about changes going on at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, and it’s not just about the construction underway to improve our physical space. Our students’ scores on the state assessment (Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System or DCAS) are making great gains. From collaborative rich Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and Small Learning Communities (SLCs) to the incorporation of learning focused strategies to help improve instruction, the entire school is dedicated to “continuous improvement” to ensure that our students are college and career ready.
Delaware’s adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards last year contributed to Howard’s success on DCAS. Since Common Core standards for English Language Arts are a clearly aligned framework based in literacy in all content areas, teachers collaborated last year in their cross content grade level PLCs on ways to enhance literacy instruction. Teachers started the alignment process by reviewing texts for complexity and rigor. When they were confident they had the appropriate content-rich nonfiction, teachers implemented the instructional shifts by requiring students to give evidence with all answers and build effective arguments using text evidence and clear reasoning. Direct vocabulary instruction is ongoing while writing is becoming a routine in classes where students write to demonstrate their understanding of the instruction.
Howard’s mathematics SLCs focused on the instructional shifts in the math Common Core Standards: focus, coherence, and rigor. Teachers collaborated on ways to teach students to focus on the process and not the product, and ways to have students reach a deep understanding of mathematics and its connections to authentic learning.
The use of assessments has made a difference in Howard students’ DCAS scores as well. Starting last year during collaborative planning, teachers created common formative and summative assessments for their students. These assessments created data which the teachers discussed at their PLCs to determine next steps in the learning process.
This year state assessments also will begin to align with Common Core to become more skills-based, rather than content-driven. This shift will result in performance tasks and multi-step extended-response questions that will ask students to analyze new information and apply existing knowledge to real-world scenarios. These assessments will provide students, families and our teachers with more meaningful information on their readiness to succeed in college and/or career.
For the students and parents of Howard, the Common Core standards pave the road to college and career readiness with the specific skills and targets for each grade. The standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. We at Howard are well on our way to a creating a solid foundation for success for the students through the implementation of Common Core and their instructional shifts and firmly believe those changes will have a positive impact in the future of Howard’s students.