New Answers to Old Questions: Transition to Common Core
One of the things I am most excited about is planning for the transition to common core state standards. At the same time, this shift keeps me up at night. How will we get it done? How will we fund the transition? Professional development? Bandwidth? While I am not sure if these are the right standards or if the process for determining these standards was perfect, I do know it is time to embrace change in both curriculum and instruction. I am not alone in the excitement and anxiety surrounding the transition, but I also know this process is going to be much easier for our district than others, thanks to the professional learning community model. We have a clear mission, vision and values. There is a culture of continuous improvement and collective inquiry, and thank goodness our teachers have regular time to collaborate and are accustomed to answering the four questions:
- What should students know and be able to do as a result of this course, class, or grade level?
- How will we know that the students are not learning?
- How do we respond when students do not learn?
- How do we respond when students learn more?
As we grapple with the common core, these four questions remain the same; the answers will change. What we want students to know and be able to do will be more rigorous, more focused on the knowledge and skills that will prepare students for colleges, careers, and life. We know there is a gap between what students can do when they graduate high school and the expectations of colleges or careers. In 2010 the American Management Association conducted a survey of 2115 managers and executives from around the world. This survey clearly demonstrated skills like collaboration, creativity, communication and creative thinking were vital. The executives reported these skills were priorities in their organizations, and these skills were evaluated both for hiring new employees and reviewing current employee performance. The answer to what we want students to know and be able to do is changing.
How we know our students are learning is also changing. We will know they have learned new standards by moving beyond bubbles and toward application both in summative and formative assessments. The focus of assessments will move from content memorization to complex application. I am confident educators will be able to know, like never before, if our students are on track for future success. We will continue to need systems for students who don’t get it or already get it. The PLC model makes interventions and extensions systematic. This will be an incredible support as we move forward.
The four questions must continue to be answered in the coming years. Common Core and next generation assessments are game changers, but the game board remains the same. During this shift, we can depend on the PLC process to provide a foundational structure.
American Management Association. (2010). AMA 2010 critical skills survey. Retrieved 1/13/2012-- http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/Executives-Say-the-21st-Century-Needs-More-Skilled-Workers.aspx