Over the past year, I’ve seen numerous posts, pictures, and articles about states thinking they would pull out of PARCC Testing and CCSS (Common Core State Standards). Each time I’ve seen these articles and posts, I’ve wondered to myself, “Despite our working hard to implement them within our school districts and schools, have we done a good enough job of educating the public just what CCSS are and how they differ from curriculum?”.
I ask this after seeing the same picture many times on friends’ Facebook pages and in other social media. When I see it on Facebook pages, I often take time to respond to the picture trying to educate the person posting about Common Core State Standards, curriculum, and the difference between the two.
Have we failed the general public by not sufficiently educating them on what I believe could be a powerful tool in education that would level the playing field for many students and school systems across the country? In our hurry to implement, did we not provide enough reasons for stakeholders in government, business and most importantly, parents, so that they would know what the CCSS stood for and could do for their children?
Additionally, have we not responded enough, or placed too much emphasis on specific content related skills, such as close reading? My guess is that if you don’t know much about CCSS, you’ve probably at least heard someone talk about close reading, or you’ve probably seen the picture of the math test I included above in some type of Facebook or social media feed.
In a recent article by Karin Chenoweth (September 2014) Wait — Can You Tell Me Again What Common Core is?, she points out that there is not a lot of common understanding about what students should learn when, and further more, although parents think educators understand this, they in fact, do not. This was shown through an example she provided about math, related to the teaching of decimals and fractions with fifth grade students.
Wouldn’t parents and governing education institutions want teachers to know when to teach what specific skills to maximize student learning? Additionally, do parents understand that CCSS expect students to know fewer topics that are taught in greater depth, rather than teaching many other extraneous topics that will not lend themselves to maximizing student learning?
States and local school districts continue to have the ability to exercise decisions around curriculum. Curriculum being what is taught specifically (units on animal adaptation, electricity, etc.). Common Core State Standards provide the roadmap as to where curriculum takes students. Each district has its own ability to determine the route they will take to get to the outcomes (standards).
I get nervous when I see pictures like the math test I shared earlier being referred to as a Common Core math test. That test was created by a teacher or a school. It was not created by Common Core and therefore, is not proof that Common Core is eroding how children are taught mathematics. The test created a poorly constructed problem(s) that are now being used by educational extremists to paint the Common Core State Standards in a negative light.
PARCC is not helping with the public’s general misunderstanding of Common Core State Standards either. Across the country, there is already an existing anxiety about the amount of testing and types of assessments students participate in during the school day. Pearson’s push towards states implementing this assessment is helping to “fan the flames” of general discontent around Common Core and assessments in general.
So, you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “So what? We’re already into Common Core State Standards, what can I do now?”. Each and every educator that has a connection to the Common Core standards is responsible to help educate the public, in my opinion. This may look different for the particular role that you have, however, we are all educators, and that does not just include educating children.
School districts should be providing information to parents about what Common Core State Standards are and what curriculum is. They should also be pointing out to parents what process they have gone through to determine their curriculum. This would be a great starting point. It will be easy for districts to say they offered opportunities for parents and no one attended. That is an excuse. There are many forums which parents access information on a regular basis. Shame on school districts if they think that holding one night time forum on this will reach families.
In addition to educating families, first and foremost, districts need to be educating staff. If the teachers do not understand the difference between Common Core and curriculum, it is the district’s job to make sure that happens. This should happen through staff meetings, district wide professional development, and through mentoring and coaching.
Teachers are also a direct line to families about what happens in the classroom. Often times, more direct than district offices. My district offers a Back to School Night in the fall which is often well attended. What better forum to share information with parents?
As I’ve written this blog post, I’ve wondered if I have done enough as a principal. The good news is that I am reflective in my practice. The not so good news, is that upon reflecting on what I have done, I feel I have contributed to misunderstandings about Common Core State Standards by not offering enough professional learning opportunities for parents. I’ll use some of my monthly Principal Chat opportunities at school to provide more information to parents about Common Core State Standards, and I will also provide information in some upcoming monthly news articles as well.
We all have a responsibility to be educators. That realm does not only exist in the classroom, but extends beyond to families and school communities. Reflect on the work that you’ve done to educate the greater school community and ask yourself, “Have I met my responsibility as an educator?”. If you haven’t, no worries. We’re all learning and growing, and it’s not too late to start.
I’d be interested to hear what you have done to help parents and the school community understand Common Core State Standards. Below are two great posts by Karin Chenoweth that are great resources.