Saturday, October 27, 2012

Commonn Core State Standards - Pt. 1

That's CCSS to most of us, and in my 23 years of teaching, it's perhaps the biggest game-changer I've seen yet. For the first time in forever, nearly the entire country is united in agreement regarding what students should know and be able to do at every level from Kindergarten through 12th grade (and beyond.) Using a backwards design model that begins with the College and Career Readiness standards (CCR), the CCSS creates a framework upon which all teachers - and this is important, it's NOT just core subject area teachers - can create curriculum that is rigorous and alligned from grade to grade and should theoretically transfer between districts and states.

The most exciting aspect to me - and my focus has so far been on Literacy & Language Arts - is how closely the standards support a workshop model of teaching. It's very constructivist in it's approach to how students learn and the role of the teacher as facilitator rather than lecturer.  Unlike the extensive but overly ambiguous Oregon state standards ushered in in 1990 by HB 3565 (the "Katz Bill") which remained a burdensome (and largely unfunded) mandate for over 2 decades, The focus of the CCSS is fairly narrow. In Reading there are 10 simply stated and clearly defined standards. Period. For 1st through 12th grade. The CCSS recognizes that the skills needed to be a proficient reader are the same basic skills at all levels of a reader's life, but that as readers grow, they must develop increasingly sophisticated strategies to experience success with increasingly sophisticated texts and tasks. This is what's known as "spiraling" standards; picture a successful student riding a circular "updraft" as they gain altitude with a standard from year to year - elegant, eh?

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