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Standards that Matter

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The Learning First Alliance’s Get It Right: Common Sense on the Common Core campaign shares success stories and resources with educators, parents and community leaders across the country to help them better understand and implement the Common Core State Standards in their local schools. LFA Executive Director Cheryl Scott Williams recently spoke with Discovery Education about the purpose of the Get It Right campaign and how LFA took on Common Core as an initiative.

“Get It Right is our way of saying we believe a strong public education system works toward high standards for all children,” she told Discovery Education Senior Vice President Scott Kinney during the interview. “It’s a complicated business educating all children to high standards. ‘Get It Right’ says let’s step back, let’s give our professionals time to learn, to develop new approaches, collaborate, have the resources and support to get it right, and implement Common Core with fidelity.” ...

By Alex Sczesnak, Algebra 1 Teacher, Math Department Chair, and UFT Chapter Leader at Metropolitan High School in the South Bronx* 

Hello, and greetings from New York! March—infamously “the longest month” for students and teachers—roared right along, blustery and wet as ever. Last year at this time, the big question on every Algebra 1 teacher’s mind was “what will the test look like?” Here we are, a year later, and the course is feeling a little more lamb-like, as we now have the experience to better translate the expectations of the CCSS into the lessons, problem sets, and classroom assessments that make the standards come to life. This has been a boon for teachers everywhere; most would agree that these standards are far more focused and coherent than anything we’ve implemented previously, leading to curricula that make math meaningful for students in ways that were not previously possible.

That doesn’t mean all teachers are singing the praises of the Common Core just yet, however. One of the most common complaints I hear from Algebra 1 teachers is ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

Adam Ross has decided to frontload his adult life with experience rather than education. He expects to eventually enroll in a four-year college, probably earning an engineering degree. But first he’s going to work a few years for the company that has offered to pay his community college tuition in exchange for his agreement to work for them for two years after earning an associate’s degree.

“Nobody will hire you after college unless you have experience so I’m going to get my experience first and then go to college,’’ said the savvy 17-year-old high school senior.

Ross can manage this because he elected to enroll in the Engineering & Emerging Technologies (EET) program, one of nine career clusters offered by the Oakland Schools Technical Campus in suburban Detroit, MI. He spends half of every school day at OSTC’s campus in Pontiac where he’s earning high school credits, college credits, and professional certifications that he can immediately take into the workplace ...

By Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

A high-quality public education can build much-needed skills and knowledge. It can help children reach their God-given potential. It can stabilize communities and democracies. It can strengthen economies. It can combat the kind of fear and despair that evolves into hatred.

On my recent visit to Israel, the West Bank and Auschwitz, I was reminded how public education, by bringing children together—regardless of race, religion or creed—can promote pluralism. 

Public education can also provide the safe harbors our children need, especially in tough times. In December in Ferguson, MO, I saw how public schools gave kids the space they needed to process what was happening in their community, while instilling hope ...

By Lily Eskelsen García, President, National Education Association (NEA), and Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

This piece first appeared in the Washington Post. View the original here.

Public education for every child was an American idea, but it has always been a local and state responsibility. Even when Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 50 years ago, the intended federal role was limited but clear: ensuring equal opportunity.

The act provided federal resources for states to level the playing field between schools in wealthy and poor districts. However, its 2002 reauthorization, which became known as No Child Left Behind, took the law off track by mandating that all students hit arbitrary scores on standardized tests instead of ensuring equal opportunities.

No Child Left Behind has failed. Now we have a chance to fix the law by refocusing on the proper federal role: equal opportunity. To do that, we must change the way we think about accountability.

Under No Child Left Behind, accountability has hinged entirely on standardized test scores, a single number that has been used to determine whether students graduate or teachers keep their jobs. The problem is, a single test score is like a blinking "check engine" light on the dashboard. It can tell us something's wrong but not how to fix it ...

What makes good public policy? Some analysts might respond with the phrase "evidence-based research." Unfortunately, policymakers can also be political agents, acting in the interests of outside forces and influences. A recent book, Show Me the Evidence, by Ron Haskins, heralds the Obama Administration's focus on using evidence to inform public policy solutions. Unfortunately, the administration’s current obsession with the use of value-added measures (VAM) to track student growth and account for their progress in teacher evaluations runs counter to this evidence-based emphasis. ...

By Amber Chandler, American Federation of Teachers member and 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts Teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY

About two years ago I decided that I knew the perfect way to get rich.  I’d create a lesson planning platform that had a dropdown menu of Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).  It would only be a matter of time before I could hit the road schilling this amazing product and making money hand over fist.  Unfortunately, I had no idea how to do this.  And before I could get a new college degree, create an amazing product, and begin my worldwide tour, some other people thought of it! CommonCurriculum.com (my favorite, and the one I still use) LessonPlanner.com, Planboard.com, and many others beat me to it.  I guess they already had their degrees. ...

The Learning First Alliance's Get It Right campaign spotlights states and communities working hard to get Common Core implementation right. Recently, we did a deeper dive into California's efforts to roll out the standards and are featuring educators' experiences with the process.

As part of this effort, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Kathy Harris, a teacher in the Piner-Olivet Union School District (where she is currently a Common Core State Standards Implementation Coach with a focus on English Language Arts) for 28 years. From 1998 to 2009 she served as the Regional Director of the California Reading and Literature Project at Sonoma State University. She has done extensive study in the areas of reading, reading readiness, assessment, English language development, school reform, school leadership and professional development. She has also engaged in many field experiences with both teachers and principals, working to improve student achievement through effective professional development, technical assistance and school reform. 

Harris has provided professional development in English Language Arts (ELA) and English Language Development for K-12 teachers and administrators throughout the state. She was re-appointed to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing in November of 2013 and currently serves as Vice-Chair.

Q: When did you first learn about the Common Core State Standards?

Harris: My experience with the Common Core standards started in November of 2009, when I was teaching third grade. I joined the National Council of Teachers of English review panel. We reviewed the draft standards, collaborated with teachers from many states and gave our feedback ...

This piece was co-authored with Dean Vogel, President of the California Teachers Association. It first appeared in the Sacramento Bee. View the original here.

The new school year brings one of the biggest transitions our state’s elementary and secondary education system has ever experienced. As students settle into new classrooms, our teachers are adjusting their instruction to help students meet expectations of the new Common Core state standards. It’s our job – as parents, business leaders, students, community members and educators – to look beyond both the hype and hysteria to ensure that students benefit from thoughtful, locally driven implementation.

Part of the challenge we’re facing is a lack of clear information about what the standards are and aren’t. They emphasize critical thinking, problem solving and inquiry-based learning – what students need to thrive in college and in today’s global economy. Far from prescribing what should be taught or how, the new standards outline what students should know while giving teachers the flexibility to decide how to help each student get there. Under Common Core, there are actually fewer standards, allowing teachers to slow down and students to explore each topic in depth. ...

When we discuss the implementation of new college- and career-ready standards, such as the Common Core, we talk a lot about how teachers can adapt their practice to best help students achieve. And we talk a bit about the important role that principals, superintendents and parents will play in the process.

One stakeholder is rarely mentioned: The school counselor. Yet the adoption of new standards directly impacts their daily work, their pre-service training and their professional learning.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is in the process of updating their Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success, which identify and prioritize the specific attitudes, knowledge and skills that students should be able to demonstrate as a result of a school counseling program. This document is intended to serve as the foundation for classroom lessons, small group work and activities within a school counseling program, and its newest iteration will be aligned with the Common Core, as well as with other national, state and district level documents.

In a recent e-interview, ASCA Assistant Director Eric Sparks took the time to tell us more about this project and the important role that school counselors play in academic support, as well as how their work is shifting with the adoption of new college- and career-ready standards.

Public School Insights (PSI): What are the topline messages that those in the education community who are not school counselors – such as teachers, principals and parents – should know about the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors for Student Success?

Sparks: The ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success describe the knowledge, skills and attitudes that students need to achieve academic success, college and career readiness and social/emotional development. ...

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