April 2015

Pamela Nortonby Pamela Norton

Denver resident Pamela Norton is the founder and president of Activate.

Leading up to the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing in Colorado last month, several friends said they planned to pull their kids from the test.

Other friends said their kids were pressuring them to do so. My child did try that tactic, but he knew I wouldn’t agree.

I told my friends to stay strong so they could learn from the data the test would provide. I asked, “How can you help ensure your children are getting the best education if you don’t know how they are doing compared to children in the rest of the world?”

For years, we have been living on “feel-good” subjective standards that gave some of us a false sense that our school is “blue-ribbon,” with the smartest and brightest students. We’ve had only subjective standards for K-12 ever since the testing conversation began in 1959. Since then, we’ve seen many failed government initiatives and programs, until we finally obtained a bipartisan solution six years ago.

Finally, after all this work and investment, the state has implemented the Colorado Measures Academic Success (CMAS) PARCC tests so we can provide parents, teachers and schools with a benchmark and real insights to ensure our children are competitive.

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By Vicki Phillips

If you watch William Anderson teach, or listen to him talk, two things become readily clear: William sets high expectations for students and he connects with students through assignments that are relevant to them.

WAndersonIn his 7th year in education, William is a teacher and the Social Studies department chair at the Martin Luther King Early College High School in Denver, CO.  He teaches two upper grade classes in ethnic studies and spends the rest of his time working with teachers, including observing, coaching and co-planning with them.

Denver was one of the first districts in Colorado to actively adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  And, when asked about the CCSS, William doesn’t pull any punches: “We need to think about them in terms of curriculum, practice, units, and lessons.  They get framed as accountability but they are really instructional tools. They are about instruction.  We need to move the conversation from ‘here are the standards and here’s the evaluation’ to ‘let’s look at these standards and think about the lessons we are designing.’”

William continues, “In my classroom, I incorporate the Common Core into the curriculum and content I think is important.  We do a lot of critical reading and critical writing. And it works.  Any teacher can do it. The Common Core is really about pointing toward best practice.” (more…)

“It’s really important to have high standards for all students across the board, to truly prepare them for the workplace and for higher levels of education.” — Matthew Johnson, Denver 4th grade teacher

In this video from America Achieves, Colorado educators discuss the importance of high standards.

Curious to see the Common Core in action? This video shows how one second-grade class is using the standards to develop a deeper understanding of the Pledge of Allegiance.

This video explains how the PARCC test works, which is known as CMAS in Colorado.