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What Teachers Need to Know About the Common Core State Standards

Dr. Katherine McKnight

Common Core State Standards for TeachersAs an educator for over twenty years, I’ve witnessed numerous initiatives to improve the quality of education.  With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS),  I think we are finally emerging from a more “Standards Abused” era in education. 

I am not naïve enough to believe that the Common Core State Standards are going to cure everything that challenges teaching and learning in our classrooms.  However, I am optimistic that CCSS is a vehicle for us (educators) to go back to what we all first knew. 

What we all first knew is that good and effective teaching is not rooted in multiple-choice tests. Instead, student achievement is a result of effective teaching that is based on research, sound pedagogical practices, and theory.  CCSS also recognizes that teachers are the best ones to decide the most effective teaching methodologies for reaching the rigorous expectations of this new set of standards. It is time for us to get back to what we know, as educators, are the best ways in which we can teach our students.

CCSS is a vehicle for us to get back to what we know is best for our students.

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How Common Core State Standards Get Back to Quality Instruction

When I work in schools across the United States and talk to teachers about what good instruction looks like, I will hear comments like:

  • “It’s about integrating technology and 21st century schools.”
  • “My students are developing their literacy skills in all content areas, not just the English or reading class.”
  • “My kids are learning how to use information.”
  • “I’m meeting my kids where they are through differentiated instruction methodologies.”
  • “I love projects and inquiry activities.  Those kinds of activities and assessments really indicate to me that my students understand.  This is the best kind of assessment for determining what my kids know and understand.”

Once I have this discussion with teachers, we recognize that we do know the most effective strategies for students to learn, comprehend , and develop important skills sets, I draw their attention to the Common Core State Standards. 

Complementary Aspect of the Common Core State Standards:

  • 1.      Did you notice that many of the Standards require students to represent what they know and understand through different contexts?  Therefore we could never rely on multiple choice tests as a sole assessment because this instrument is only ONE way in which students can represent what they know and  understand.  Inquiry based projects and assessments would meet this expectation in CCSS.

  • 2.      The CCSS outline what college and career readiness looks like for individual students through clearly articulated expectations.  These expectations echo our conversation that effective good teaching and learning is rooted in differentiated instruction.

  • 3.      The fact that the CCSS authors clearly articulate that it is teachers and curriculum specialists who are the BEST and most knowledgeable about how students can reach the rigorous expectations of these standards is huge. 

Do you need Common Core State Standards teacher training, contact the K-12 Teachers Alliance to book a professional development speaker.

Tips for Teachers to Transition to the Common Core State Standards

  • Let’s go back to what drew us into the teaching profession in the first place.  It’s about the students.  The fact that the Standards are written from a student point of view, emphasizes the importance of student learning.
  • Use the Standards as a lens as you consider the how and why of instruction.
  • There is a strong interdisciplinary emphasis on literacy skill integration of English language arts, science, social studies, and mathematics.  This focus makes CCSS different from most state standards because content literacy is not a separate entity and sole responsibility of English teachers.
  • The Standards emphasize rigor and connects it with what CCSS calls textual complexity.  For teachers, this means that our students must read a wide variety of texts in all subjects.
  • CCSS positions students to be increasing independent learners.  Many of the Standards describe tasks for students to accomplish independently.  A student’s ability to apply and use skills and knowledge without assistance is the highest level of understanding and mastery.
  • Immerse your students in rich textual environments which include digital text (i.e. blogs, wikis, online particles, ebooks).  Require increasing amounts of reading.  I think it is also important that we avoid assumptions about  what students will and won’t read.  As teachers, we must expose students to a wide variety of texts at different levels of difficulty.  The more students read, they more they are able to develop literacy skills.

We do know in our heads and hearts what effective teaching and learning looks like for our students. Talking to each other and sharing ideas and information is also important as we make this transition to Common Core State Standards.  CCSS is a vehicle that gives us the structure and the flexibility to manifest exciting and effective classrooms for the 21st century.

What did we miss? Share other Common Core State Standards need-to-know info in the comments section!