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Standards that Matter

Blog Entries

By Amber Jimenez, American Federation of Teachers member and ELL teacher in Colville, WA

I like to take the first few weeks of summer vacation to do some serious reflection. I think about the school year and my successes and failures. This helps determine which books I read and classes I attend to help me prepare for the next school year. For the last few years, though, I have also thought seriously about teaching as a profession, how we as teachers are perceived, and how decisions and trends policy makers make affect my teaching practice.

Accountability seems to be the big buzz word these days. Starting with NCLB when I was a new teacher, districts began to take a closer look at student subgroups and became accountable for their success. As an ELL teacher I was happy to see a greater focus on my students’ progress. Yet NCLB’s focus on punishment in the end hurt my students. Because they needed more support, my elementary students lost access to the arts and even core subjects of science and social studies in the push towards reading and math. My high school students also lost out on elective opportunities because they needed to take resource and support classes to improve their test scores. My students were not well rounded and for many of them, the “fun part” of school was lost. Race to the Top wasn’t much better. States are relying on waivers from NCLB to retain funding. My new home state even recently lost its waiver. Our accountability system is up in the air. ...

By Shannon Sevier, Vice President for Advocacy, National PTA

National PTA recently released a video series on the Common Core to educate parents on the standards and empower them to support the implementation of the standards at school and home. The series was developed in partnership with The Hunt Institute as part of the association’s ongoing efforts to provide accurate information about the Common Core, ensure parents are knowledgeable about the standards and new assessments, and support parents every step of the way as states transition to the standards.

The series features 14 videos that highlight the importance of and need for clear, consistent and rigorous standards; dispel myths about the Common Core; and provide perspectives from educators, administrators, PTA leaders and others on the positive changes they’ve seen with the standards. The videos also spotlight the steps PTAs can take to effectively advocate for the standards in their communities. ...

The results of Maryland’s annual reading and math assessments were recently announced – and scores are at their lowest level in seven years, according to The Washington Post. Why? In large part, because the state is currently teaching to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but the tests are not aligned to them. So ultimately, as social studies teacher and Maryland state legislator Eric Luedtke said, “The scores mean nothing at all. You are testing kids on content that they are no longer learning.”

Maryland education officials were prepared for this situation – both State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery and Maryland State Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Jack Smith are quoted in the Post article acknowledging it directly. And the results had “no bearing on school accountability measures or principal and teacher evaluations” – appropriate, given that the tests did not reflect what was happening in the classroom.

But the Maryland situation is far from unique. Across the country, schools, districts and states are in different phases of Common Core implementation. In some places, the standards have been adopted, but the curriculum not yet aligned. In others, the curriculum has been aligned, but the assessments have not. In still others, the standards and assessments have been aligned, but the curriculum has not. In all, educators are working hard to implement, but they are not done yet. ...

It is no secret that in many places the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are under attack. Yet despite what those of us paying attention to the debate at the national level hear, the fact is that there are a number of communities in which the Common Core is NOT controversial. In some of these places, that is because communications about the standards have been so direct and informative. But in other places, the controversy might be biding its time, waiting for a trigger – for example, the results of CCSS-aligned assessments that show a significant drop in proficiency rates – before it erupts.

Pre-Empting a Local Debate

At the national (and in some cases, state) level, one huge factor contributing to the current rhetoric around the Common Core is that, on the whole, advocates were often not prepared for the pushback that the standards received. As a result, they did not always respond quickly or appropriately to criticisms (or even general inquiries) about the CCSS, which created an empty space that opponents of the standards were able to fill with their voices – and occasionally, misinformation. So even if you are fortunate not to have experienced pushback yet in your community, you may still want to prepare for an upcoming debate. ...

By Tatyana Warrick, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

What do students need to know and do to be able to thrive in the 21st century? This is the question that P21 has been working in concert with business, education leaders, and policymakers to answer over the last 10 years. Turns out, the skills that students need to succeed in college and workplace – a.k.a. to be college & career ready – are the same ones they need to be 21st century citizens.

Just as the world of work has changed, with the advent of technology and globalization, so has the nature of citizenship. The challenges of being a responsible, effective citizen are more diverse, nuanced and complex than they have been before. Because of this, our understanding of what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century needs to be expanded. Public schools have always played an important part of shaping tomorrow's citizens and safeguarding the ideals of our democracy. That responsibility is just as vital today. In fact, as we discuss standards, assessments and teaching practices, we can't forget that our educators also carry with them the responsibility to impart to students what it means to be a citizen of this nation, this world and online. ...

By Carolyn Sykora, Senior Director of Standards, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Common Core State Standards and the first iPad were released. Together, these changed the name of the game in U.S. education.

The Common Core assessments were designed to be taken online, requiring students to be comfortable with using and navigating digital resources. The tablet offered an affordable alternative to computer labs and carts — one that was portable enough for students to use throughout their school day and at home.

Reviewing the current body of research, ISTE found that 1:1 programs were already showing educational gains for students in special education as well as improved reading and writing skills in certain student populations, piquing the attention of decision makers. ...

The Learning First Alliance (LFA) is leading a focused campaign advocating for time, support and resources for successful implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). It includes interviews with education leaders from across the country who are sharing how their states and communities are working to Get It Right, the title we’ve given our campaign. Several meetings I attended recently outlined strategies for “getting it right” that showcased research and practice in key areas necessary to “get it right”:  accountability measures, state education agencies’ capabilities and classroom teacher practice.

Last week, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) hosted a daylong meeting on Rethinking Accountability: Putting Students and Learning First that looked at accountability from a variety of angles, including accountability for meaningful learning, professional capacity and resources. All three types of accountability point to the requirement for system change that’s built on an evidence-based design and factors in responsibility at a variety of levels – state, district, school, classroom and community. While success happens locally, that success and the responsibility for that success is dependent on adequate resources, a culture of support and a realization that professional capacity is built over time ...

There are over 95,000 school board members nationwide; often overlooked, they are an invaluable factor in the success of education initiatives and the quality of public education in districts across the United States. Anne M. Byrne is the President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). Since 1981, Byrne has been a member of the Nanuet School Board, on which she has served as president and vice president. She's also served as an officer of the New York school board association in a variety of capacities.

LFA is deeply appreciate to Ms. Byrne for taking the time to share her thoughts on both the importance of the Common Core State Standards as well as some of the challenges states face in implementing them, with a particular focus on her home state of New York. She also discussed the critical leadership role that school boards across the country play in setting the tone and agenda for public education in our communities.

Public School Insights (PSI): First, we would love to get your thoughts on the actual standards. As a school board member, and as a state and national leader, when you assess the standards, what are your first impressions, both in terms of opportunity and potential challenges? Are there particular elements you are excited about, or nervous about? What are the implications for student achievement and equity?

Byrne: This movement to higher standards is a very good thing. High standards are a must whether you call them career- and college-ready standards or the Common Core ...

By Lisa Abel-Palmieri, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Blogger

Girls want to change the world.

Eighty-eight percent say they want to make a difference with their lives, and 90 percent express a desire to help people, according to the Girl Scouts’ “Generation STEM” research. Girls have traditionally achieved this goal through people-oriented careers rather than through applying technology and scientific expertise to change the way things are done.

However, if more girls learn that STEM careers open up new avenues to help and serve, more girls will choose STEM.

Maker education allows girls to experience in a fun, tangible way how they can apply STEM skills to solve real problems — all while developing dexterity, learning about ideation and practicing teamwork. By giving girls the opportunity to make and tinker, we also help them develop their creative confidence so they persevere in pursuing STEM majors and careers. The “Generation STEM” report found that 92 percent of girls who engage with STEM subjects believe that they are smart enough to ...

By Gerard J. Puccio and Julia Figliotti, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Proving Creativity Is an Essential Skill

Organizations everywhere are shouting from the rooftops. They are calling for innovation and imagination in our schools and demanding innovation and imagination in the workplace. The essence of it all: creativity is finally being recognized as a must-have, 21st century work skill.

At the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC), we believe it is more than just a work skill. Creativity is a necessity at the workplace, in a home environment and everywhere in between. To cope with the ever-present change in our modern world, creativity has become an essential life skill for all.

Resistance Remains

However, in spite of the clarion call for creativity, there is still some resistance to the view that creativity is a skill that can be developed. In our opinion, there are two major impediments to the integration of creativity into businesses, education and society. The first obstacle is probably the most obvious: while many business leaders tout the importance of creativity in their employees, our educational systems seem to be leaning in the opposite ...

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