A big thanks to the Student Achievement Partners for including me in their Core Advocates weekend and for featuring me in their newsletter this month!
Until last Saturday, I thought I was pretty successful at teaching the Common Core Math Standards. I have written numerous blog posts about how Common Core has transformed my classroom into a stronger learning environment for all learners, praised its effects on learning to parents, and have been a champion in my district for its implementation. After having the opportunity to attend the Core Advocates weekend put on by the Student Achievement Partners, it is safe to say that I now realize I have just begun to tap the potential of the Common Core’s power.
In many ways, it is humbling to walk into a room with some of the most inspiring teachers in Kentucky and national Achieve the Core leaders; however, there wasn’t much time to stand in awe of their power as we had our learning cut out for us over the course of the next two days. The big idea of the weekend was examining the shifts in the Common Core Standards, specifically focus, coherence, and rigor. Each of these pieces provided me with another lens through which to view the Standards that would enable me to be a better and more effective teacher leader.
Without a doubt the focus aspect blew me away. I have read the focus standards repeatedly yes but somehow never connected the fact that 75-80% of teacher time was supposed to be spent on these specific standards. For example, in Kentucky’s 7th grade math unit, we only dedicate 60% of the time to these focus standards as we have divided the time up equally among the five domains. Furthermore, our state test is modeled in the same manner with 40% of our assessment covering the content standards we are only supposed to spend 20% of the time covering.
I have been as guilty as the next person of pointing my finger at prior grade levels and lamenting that “if only they had done a better job teaching Common Core I could be more successful”. The Core Advocates convening showed me that beauty of the Core comes in the coherence it achieves. No matter what happened previously the Standards always give teachers a chance to wrap that content and bring it right back around to where you need students to be. We had the opportunity to work with teachers from numerous grade levels to see the innumerable connections that were woven into Common Core. From as early as Kindergarten children are on the pathway to success in Algebra and it is our job as teachers to keep weaving those connections in for student success.
As a seventh grade teacher I have complained for four years about how disjointed the 7th grade math standards are. I felt like a complete Common Core novice after working through the coherence piece with my state colleagues. Absolutely every standard K-8 is intentional, is linked, and is necessary exactly where it is placed. Those disjointed 7th grade standards I once complained about are actually perfectly aligned. The geometry standards link right back into all three focus units while the probability standards can be directly related to the number system standards. It would be impossible for me to ever look at the standards the same way again after seeing the intentionality that was placed in writing each one.
The rigor piece is definitely where I was in my comfort zone since rigor has been my passion since I implemented Common Core in my classroom. It was still so very valuable to have meaningful conversations with other teachers about the true meaning of rigor. No it isn’t harder worksheets or more work but instead equal focus on concepts, skills, and application. No one piece of the three is any more valuable than the other and all three must be present to truly achieve any of the Common Core standards.
Here’s my big takeaway from the weekend; it is time to start working with each other to put the Common Core back together. We have spent four years deconstructing, replacing, clarifying and blaming; now, we have to go back, reconstruct, and start looking at the big picture. It is time to stop pointing our fingers and blaming the Core or the content that came before us and start seeing the beauty in the coherence of the Core and the ability to constantly wrap the content around for learners. It is time to stop looking at Common Core as about politics, money, schools or teachers and start realizing it is about learners. Our students deserve better. Our students deserve the Common Core how it was intended in its entirety, not just as a deconstructed check list of skills.