Making the Common Core a Common Standard

October 11th, 2013

Category: Policy and Practice

This op-ed was originally published in the “The News Journal” and was written by former Delaware Teachers of the Year Courtney Fox and Amber Augustus. Amber Augustus is a fifth-grade teacher in the Smyrna School District and was the 2012 Delaware State Teacher of the Year. Courtney Fox is a first-grade teacher in the Brandywine School District and was the 2008 Delaware State Teacher of the Year. It was published alongside an op-ed by Ernie Dianastasis, Chair of Vision 2015 and managing director of CAI.

Recently, there has been a movement to adopt a common set of standards that set higher expectations for student learning in schools throughout the United States. The Common Core State Standards are a clear set of student learning standards that require deeper critical thinking from our students and reflect the skills needed to be successful in a 21st century economy. Common Core defines goals and benchmarks and will support teachers with clear expectations for what students need to learn, ensure continuity in learning across grade levels and allow states to compare the progress of students.

There is strong classroom support for Common Core. Most of our state and district Teacher of the Year colleagues agree that these standards will increase student achievement. Furthermore, our school and district colleagues are excited about the possibility of working more closely with other states to improve student achievement. Not only do the new standards help us teach students to think critically, they are helping us rethink student learning, moving away from the memorization of facts and toward the development of skills required to deeply understand a problem.

When we think about how things have changed in our own classrooms, we see a greater emphasis on understanding and communication. We take deeper looks at texts and meaning, and we are not only teaching our students how to solve problems, we are encouraging our students to communicate the “why.”

The transition to Common Core is challenging for students and teachers. Many teachers we have talked to feel that we haven’t yet reached the full benefits of CCSS because implementation is hard. Just as students are finding themselves challenged by higher expectations, as teachers, we are being challenged to learn new teaching strategies and to prepare new resources for our students. These standards require that we teach to new depths of understanding. Furthermore, some of the learning expectations for each grade level have changed, which will require new content instruction and new lesson plans.
Teachers are meeting this challenge head on and working hard to make this transition successful. We are working together to better understand the new standards, we are using data to make educational decisions about how to grow student learning, we are sharing lessons and resources, and we are collaborating in new ways.

More work is needed to ensure the success of Common Core. As teachers, we still need exposure to examples of how to teach these new standards so that we can ensure that our students are learning the full depth of material. Our Teacher of the Year peers and colleagues have participated in professional development; however, most of us feel that greater support, materials and time to collaborate would be valuable. Teachers can’t do this alone.

If you’re a parent or community member, we encourage you to participate in Common Core information sessions and ask your local school or PTA what you can do. You can play an important role in reinforcing the skill and character development included in Common Core Standards at home and in the community. Common Core requires students to move beyond immediate gratification and focus on developing perseverance. The standards also emphasize developing real-world skills, so students should practice what they learn in their lives and in their communities.

If you’re a school or district leader, you can support us by providing time for teachers to collaborate, ensuring that the classroom resources needed to support Common Core are available and building a school-wide culture that focuses on successful implementation.

If you’re a policymaker, look for opportunities to align state supports, support the update and maintenance of information technology in schools and provide the resources for teacher coaching and learning opportunities.

To discuss the statewide implementation of Common Core and how you can support the effort, join us Wednesday at the Vision 2015 Conference.

Rodel Foundation of Delaware



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