Kevin Knudsen is a professor of mathematics at the University of Florida
Math can’t catch a break. These days, people on both ends of the political spectrum are lining up to deride the Common Core standards, a set of guidelines for K-12 education in reading and mathematics. The Common Core standards outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. States don’t have to adopt the standards, although many did in an effort to receive funds from President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative.
Conservatives oppose the guidelines because they generally dislike any suggestion that the federal government might have a role to play in public education at the state and local level; these standards, then, are perceived as a threat to local control.
Liberals, mostly via teachers’ unions, decry the use of the standards and the associated assessments to evaluate classroom instructors.
And parents of all persuasions are panicked by their sudden inability to help their children with their homework. Even comedian Louis CK got in on the discussion (via Twitter; he has since deactivated his account). (more…)
In a recent piece in US News, Partelow explained how the standards were designed to allow for flexibility and creativity in the classroom. She shared several examples to demonstrate that the standards do not define what teachers should teach or how students should learn, rather, they focus on what students need to know. Take, for instance, the Common Core math standards, which are “less concerned that students master a single prescribed approach to getting the right answer” and instead emphasize students’ understanding that there are multiple ways to solve a problem correctly.
Crystal Gallegos, a Pueblo educator, recently wrote an op-ed for the Denver Post expressing her support for Colorado’s new academic standards. In her opinion piece, Gallegos explains how, until recently, students’ education was largely dictated by where they lived.
This is changing thanks to the Colorado Academic Standards, which set higher expectations for students “while ensuring that where a family lives, their income, or their race or ethnicity won’t determine the quality of education a child receives.” She explains how higher standards are essential to closing achievement gaps and making sure more Colorado students graduate prepared for college and career. This means that all Colorado students, from Dolores to Fort Collins, have opportunities to excel and reach their full potential. This also means that Colorado businesses in every corner of the state have access to the homegrown workforce they need.
As Gallegos says, the Colorado Academic Standards “represent a major step forward for education in our state.” By raising the bar and setting higher expectations, we can continue to drive improvements in student achievement and secure a stronger future for Colorado.
Troy Rivera, an English Language Arts teacher at University High School in Greeley, reflects on how the Common Core helped him raise the bar in the classroom and provide more rigorous instruction for his students.
By Troy Rivera
In the late 1990s, I can remember sitting in college-prep English class reading Shakespeare’s MacBeth. From the vocabulary sheets, questions, quizzes, and many more assignments to complete for this unit, I never really felt any learning occurring. I never felt challenged. I never really did any thinking. Now fast-forward 20 years.
The year is 2015. It’s a 9th grade level classroom. I’m teaching. Just recently within the past several years, our state standards took a shift and merged with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Expectations for our students shift. So, the question is, for the better, or for the worse? Before we answer that question, let’s review a few things.
As educators, we are responsible for making sure that our students are life long learners. Yes, I said it, life long learners. In order for our students to become life long learners, there is much work to be done. Our students look to us for the guidance, tools, skill sets, and knowledge on how to be successful upon leaving the classroom. We do accomplish this by providing the best education possible, for all. We set our own expectations, but we also have the expectations required for our students to match up with other student nationally.
When our state made the shift of merging CCSS into our current standards, this raised the bar for our students. By raising the bar, I was able to raise the bar in the classroom. Now, standards are expectations of what we strive for our students to be able to do in order to be productive citizens in the world. How we go about teaching, using the standards, as our map is our curriculum. Let me clear the air real quickly; standards are not curriculum, they are expectations.
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.
In 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.
Re: “PARCC won’t solve our testing problems,” Feb. 6 guest commentary.
Michael Mazenko notes that the argument for PARCC tests is not “evidence-based.” Neither is the argument against — we haven’t even administered the test yet.
Where is the sense in spending countless hours and dollars on a new, high-quality test that seeks to solve so many of the problems associated with old standardized tests, only to trash it all based on speculation (mixed with a little politics and fear)?
I was one of the educators from Colorado involved in the development and review of PARCC test items, and I spent considerable time making sure it aligns to the standards and uses authentic text and real-world problems to cultivate a rich and engaging learning experience. While we will likely need to refine and tweak it, it’s still a good test.
The law requires us to have an assessment in place, so if we pull out of PARCC, the alternative is to start from scratch. That alone should convince naysayers to at least stay the course until we have that “evidence.”
Jessica Moore, Longmont
For this Front Porch article, we wanted to go beyond the politically charged national controversy and glean a deeper understanding of the CCSS and their impact on our neighborhood schools. So we turned to area experts. We spoke with State Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver) and convened a discussion group consisting of Denver School Board member Landri Taylor (District 4), principals Marcia Fulton (Odyssey), Liz Tencate (Swigert), Jill Corcoran (Westerly Creek); and fifth-grade math, science, and social studies teacher Marie Gruber (Westerly Creek). Our conversations revealed not only the complexity of and the controversy surrounding the CCSS, but also the promise this educational revolution holds for students.
By Austen Kassinger, 2nd Grade Teacher at Rocky Mountain Prep
I was determined to make Mrs. Hall’s list. Our tough fourth-grade math teacher was infamous for her sharp comments — “You look like a lost ball in high weeds” — as well as her annual prize to the few students she deemed worthy of A’s: a trip to the movies. The previous year, my older sister had gone to see “Godzilla,” which frightened her to tears, thereby giving her a taste of what the rest of Mrs. Hall’s students endured over the course of the year. Born with a fiercely competitive streak and accustomed to doing well in school, I knew that I would make Mrs. Hall’s A list.
That is, until we started long division. I struggled through the page of problems Mrs. Hall assigned for homework, erasing again and again as I tried to figure out the difference between a dividend and a divisor. Able to complete only five problems over the course of an excruciating evening, I begged my mother the next morning to let me stay home from school, believing that I could never show my face in math class with incomplete homework. (more…)
Co-authored by Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York, John Morgan, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, and William E. (Brit) Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland In 2009, educators, teachers and stakeholders from 45 states came together to figure out how to make the education system better for our kids. The outcome is the “Common Core” — a blueprint that ensures our students will learn what they need to learn to succeed in this day and age. But change does not come without controversy. To be expected, there is opposition at both ends of the political spectrum. Critics on the Right argue the federal government forced these new standards on the states. Critics on the Left contend that the standards are being implemented too quickly. The reality is neither claim is true. Let’s begin with its creation. The Common Core was not developed by the federal government. It was actually designed by K-12 teachers, college faculty, businesses and other stakeholders who collectively developed appropriate standards for our kids’ schools. The new standards are higher than most states’ previous standards. (more…)
What do teachers think of the Common Core? Here’s a look into one teacher’s story:
by Nelson Garcia
ENGLEWOOD – Even though Cerri Norris teaches kids in first grade, she is working on skills that she hopes her students will use as adults and business professionals.
“This is where we want our kids to be when they’re 18-years-old, so now we need to plan backwards,” Norris said. “If these are the skills they need when they’re 18, what does that mean that they should be able to do when they’re six years old?” (more…)
by Jessica Keigan, English Language Arts teacher at Horizon High School in Thornton, Colorado
Last week, I was able to testify on behalf of the Common Core State Standards to the Colorado state senate committee on education, who convened to hear testimony for and against a bill written to pause implementation.
I found out late last Thursday that my voice, along with other voices from CTQ Colorado teachers, parents, union leadership and concerned stakeholders, influenced the committee so much that the proposed bill was voted down by a four to three vote.
As a topic of much debate across the country, here are my remarks on how the Common Core (embedded into our state’s Colorado Academic Standards) have become a positive force for learning and growth in my classroom. (more…)
Jessica Cuthbertson is a 7th grade ELA Teacher at Vista PEAK Exploratory P-8 in Aurora Public Schools and a Teacherpreneur through the Center for Teaching Quality. She presented this public comment at the State Board of Education Meeting on February 12, 2014.
I have been teaching adolescents for over ten years. Recently, I think about my career in two segments – teaching and learning BEFORE and AFTER the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
I’d like to share a few before and after examples with you. As I share these examples I’d like you to ask yourself a few questions: