Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SOLSC #28: CCSS - The Plus Side

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for a slice of life stories TWT.
GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories.

I'm sure that you've seen somewhere on facebook that Indiana has withdrawn from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course. We all know someone who is education and is having a hard time for a slew (is that spelled right?) of reasons - it's a tough time to be a teacher! But what gets me upset about this is when people don't do their research and say things like, "Ohhh I hope our state smartens up and drops out, too!"

Don't misinterpret: I have some serious issues with the CCSS, and I'll get to those, but first, be advised of the good things brought to our education system by the Common Core.

Prior to CCSS, all states in the nation tested their students differently. These results are not able to be compared - it's like comparing apples to oranges. Case in point: Arizona vs. Illinois.

In Arizona, when it's time to test, all the anchor charts and reference material on the walls has to be covered or taken down. Kids are completely on their own for the tests. In Illinois - everything can stay up, as long as it was up the month or so before the test.

In Arizona, there's no time limit to complete the test. In Illinois, there is. So to be smart in Illinois, you have to not only know the content, but also think fast. In Arizona, kids can pace themselves through the test.

In Arizona, tests are administered in April. I thought this was early, too...since there's still a month and a half of instruction after the tests. In Illinois it's even earlier - if you can believe that - Our tests were finished the second week of March. (This would have been earlier, too, since we were extended for snow days!)

In Arizona, on the AIMS, there was no written response in the reading (and math?) sections. There was writing at one time - for the sake of writing but not for response to content areas. In Illinois, there is extended response to math and reading problems.

So - those are just some examples. How can we compare progress in Illinois and Arizona when the tests are administered differently? (That, and the standards in the two states are different?) The fact that the CCSS will equalize all states is a pro in my account.

Teachers need an accountability piece. Like it or not, we need to have a measurement for all teachers to teach their required content and not just keep teaching about dinosaurs because that's what they like. The CCSS ensure that all students are getting exposure to the ten standards and then we can see how students are performing.

Some nay-sayers will tell you, "Oh, these ten standards mean that all students are going to be taught the same way. They are not robots and they might need different things." The thing is - the standards don't tell you *how* to teach them, just what concepts to cover. For example, standard 1 asks students to find text evidence of what the text says explicitly and implicitly. As informed citizens, don't we want our children to know what the author of a, say, campaign ad, is implying to us and explicitly telling us? Don't we need our children to know the difference so they can make informed decisions? Teachers can teach this however they want - they can use any resource they want to teach the difference between explicit and implicit information. Good readers know the difference, so how is this bad for kids?

Additionally, anchor standard 10 asks kids to read and comprehend from a wide range of genres. This standard asks that kids get to reading and read lots! No where in the former IL or AZ standards was this listed. How is reading widely bad for kids? In fact, many of the researchers I read say that this is the best thing we can do for our kids - get them to read volumes and volumes of text! Need more research? Check out Readicide, In the Middle, The Art of Teaching Reading, The Book Whisperer, Reading in the Wild, and/or Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3-6.

These are only two of the ten anchor standards, and the rest are all great. There's still room for creativity. I still have the ability to plan social justice projects for my students and, the teacher down the hall who wants to use the basal reader and have kids answer questions - well he or she can keep on with that (although this literacy coach highly discourages it!)

The CCSS wants kids to know why. I'm sure you've all seen the papers flying around facebook of the math problem where the student has to use an alternate method to solve it rather than just doing the number sentence. As someone mentioned yesterday in the thread I was reading, "My child learns differently! They should be able to do processes in many ways, not just one!" This is exactly why the CCSS are asking teachers to show students the concepts behind the number sentences. When teachers teach fractions, with say, fraction tiles, that's going to show kids why the fractions work why they do. It's going to show them that 1/2 x 1/3 = 1/6 and that 1/6 is less than both 1/2 and 1/3. Some kids won't see it with these tiles, and so the great teachers will figure out another way to show them.

Thanks Jennie B for reminding me of this!

So parents who are complaining, "Well, ___ way worked for me so that is just fine for my kids!" Here's what I have to say: Wouldn't three ways to compute it be better than one?

The CCSS has caused thousands of school districts to get to business with curriculum and instruction. Take for instance my former school district in Arizona. Even back when I was still there, they had Curriculum Committees every single summer. For two weeks, the district would pay teachers at all grade levels to come to meetings to read and unpack the standards and learn about them. Then, after we understood them, we would write our own long term plans, outlining what standards should be taught when. The work didn't stop there - we continued by writing common assessments to be used district-wide so we could take a temperature on student achievement and see where we needed to work before the end of the year test came.

CCSS is telling districts they need to write curriculum and maps and then hold teachers accountable to them with common assessments. And guess what? The work in my old district was never done, because each summer after that, we would go through all the feedback from teachers to revise maps and assessments and make them better. Creighton continues to be on the cutting edge of teaching and learning! For a district that is super high poverty, they are preparing their students well for the their futures, and this came about because of standards and the Common Core. I sometimes listen to my bff talk about the work they're doing and feel like I don't have half the knowledge that their teachers do as far as the major shifts that math and reading standards have made. So, thank you to the CCSS for getting teachers focused on student learning and meeting their needs, whether that means that we give enrichment to the students who master concepts or we reteach (in a different way) the students who need that.

For the sake of my readers, I shall continue on with this tomorrow. I'll share the reasons why the CCSS gets me super upset. This is a hard topic to discuss, because even my best friend sees this very differently than I do, so I need some time to collect my sources and get back to you. And I'm sure even then, she'll come back at me and disagree (and I'll get kinda scared and back down), but I say we at least open up a conversation here!

And teachers: What did I miss? What pros do you see happening in schools because of the CCSS? Please share in the comments below!

Stay tuned for the flip side!


  1. I do have to say that I'm not so against the CCSS. What upsets me are the multitude of tests our children have to take, all the data gathering is overtaking real teaching, and basing teachers' evaluation on test scores. You're right. It's a hard time to be a teacher.

  2. How crazy… I just published a post on my blog about that Facebook math problem and then I clicked on your blog to see what was new and saw that you were talking about it too! I appreciate reading your point of view and agree with your thoughts. I'll be interested to read about your concerns too. I think it is great to have this discussion because although I don't believe the CCSS are perfect, I do see the need for change in the way we were doing things. What an interesting time to be an educator!

  3. Like Julie, I don't have problems with the CCSS, in fact, they represent much of what I do and have been doing as a teacher for years and years and years. However, like Julie, I have huge problems with the test mania. And I think it's ridiculous that kids aren't allowed to use resources that adults use all the time-- how many adults use spell check? Or look up the formula for finding the area of a triangle if they need to do that? But kids are supposed to remember all of this. I also have huge problems with the commercialization. A lot of people are making a lot of money off of us. Finally (or at least finally for now) I have huge problems for the total lack of respect for teachers as educated professionals who can make wise decisions for children. (

  4. I think you touched on so many important issues here.

    I think it's all about the implementation of the CCSS. Some people are doing it well and are trusting teachers and schools. Others, not so much.

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