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Sorting Through the Common Core (more to the story than Facebook)

In the past few months, “Common Core” has become a hot button issue for parents, educators, news media, and celebrities alike. Facebook feeds have been flooded with absurd worksheets, kids homework, and disparaging remarks about how the “Common Core” will ruin us all. The problem is, the “Common Core” really refers to two things. One is the standards and the other is curriculum. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but are being used interchangeably as if they are one and the same. In recent months, I’ve had parents ask for clarification about what the Common Core is. They want to be reassured that their kids aren’t anywhere near the absurdity that they are seeing online, in the news, or in the new Common Core documentary. Because there has been so much confusion, I created the video above to help explain what the “Common Core” is. I tried to keep it short so that it was manageable to watch without getting lost in the details and losing interest. I recognize that there is a LOT more to this topic than what I laid out. My goal with the video above was to help others understand what the “Common Core” is and what it isn’t. Common Core Standards are different from Common Core Curriculum. As I said before, the two are not the same. The problem is that news media outlets, Facebook feeds, and celebrities use “Common Core” to describe both the standards and the curriculum. Sometimes they even mistakenly refer to the curriculum as Common Core Standards. The standards are the United States attempt at bringing more continuity to learning foundations for kindergarten through twelfth grade students throughout the states. They are intended to ensure that all students receive the same base skills to build on in English Language Arts and Math. Most of the United States has adopted these standards and is making adjustments to accommodate the new standards. In the past, individual states each had state created standards. This led to a lot of disparity between the states about what was learned and at what stage it was learned. The result was a chasm between what students in one state learned that a neighboring state had not. The standards were developed in partnership by a group made up of governors, chief state school officers, education groups, and corporations and foundations. The funding for the development of the standards came from the federal government (part of Race to the Top money) and the corporations/foundations involved. In the video, I show a Common Core Standards “family tree” that breaks this down a bit more. While I don’t love the idea of corporations funding the standards, I recognize that the money to make them happen had to come from somewhere. I wish that the “somewhere” wasn’t tied so closely with the publishing companies who make curriculum. I also noticed that the educational groups were labeled as “advisory.” It seems to me that the government agencies and the corporations/foundations should have been “advisory” and the educational group should have been the chief designers. Because I wasn’t right in the middle of the creation, I can only speculate how this went and hope that it was a true partnership where educators had a large hand in the outcome. Included in the creation were: Achieve (which includes Alcoa, Exxon Mobile, Microsoft), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the National Govenors Association, Council of Chief School Officers, David Coleman, Sue Pimentel, and Jason Zimba (who sold an educational startup to McGraw Hill), the National Education Foundation, America Federation of Teachers, National Council of English Teachers, and National Council of Math Teachers. Standards are not a bad thing. They give a baseline and frame of reference to work within. As an educator, I see the importance of having a baseline of foundational skills that we can count on. The standards are written very generally. They are just over 60 pages long (k-12) and when you read through them you will see, they are pretty underwhelming. I like the generality of the standards, they leave schools and teachers open to using a wide variety of methodologies and resources to ensure that students get those foundational skills. They aren’t prescriptive of HOW to teach, they are just a guideline of what should be taught. Do I agree on the every single standard being totally necessary for every single child? No. But I do recognize the value in a society having a common set of baseline skills, the standards are a good beginning for that. One of the biggest problems I do have with the standards is the language used. If these goals are intended for students, shouldn’t they be written in student-friendly language that is easy to understand? Instead they are full of eduspeak and jargon. That should change! I’m sure you’ve seen these floating around (and more like it):   This is Common Core Curriculum. The writers of the Common Core Standards do not endorse any curriculum. Anyone can label the curriculum “Common Core Aligned.” ANYONE. This curriculum is designed by publishers. The alignment to the Common Core Standards is a way for publishers to sell more. Publishers know that in the frenzy of states adopting Common Core Standards, there will be an urgency to get schools and students on the same page quickly (after all…testing). They also know that if they stamp “Common Core aligned” on their curricula, schools are more likely to purchase it so that their students are ready for the testing that is sure to follow. Here is the problem, publishers design curriculum to make money. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the money overshadows what is best for kids. The other problem: the same people who write the curriculum, write the tests. This forces a school’s hand to purchase the curriculum so that their kids can pass the tests (which is then incentivized by programs like RTTT). When they don’t pass the tests, the publishing companies conveniently come to the rescue with the latest and greatest new curriculum. The cycle repeats. This is not a new cycle within education, but it is one that is becoming more and more transparent. In 2012 Pearson, the largest publisher of curriculum, developed Common Core Standards tests. The adoption of Common Core Standards does not require districts and states to collect more data. Unfortunately, the Race to the Top initiative incentivized the collection of more data. You see where this all starts to get really messy. Race to the Top also paid out $350 million to create computerized testing to more efficiently collect data on students. The downfall is that there are many, many schools across the United States who aren’t even well enough equipped with technology to give these tests. Standards are not evil, but when coupled by unreasonable expectations of a one-size-fits-all system, they can be disastrous. We use standards at Anastasis Academy, they are a framework that we can build on to ensure that our students are getting foundational skills that will carry them on in their learning. Instead of using boxed-curriculum, we approach the standards through the lens of inquiry, and build our own learning experiences based on the individual needs of every single student. Is it the most efficient it could be? No. But we are dealing with humanity, not widgets. This approach uses the standards in a way that truly does make them the floor and not the ceiling. They are a starting point, but they don’t restrict us. We choose not to use any of the “Common Core aligned” boxed curriculum. The one-size-fits-all isn’t what we want for our students. It doesn’t take into account the individuals that we teach. We choose not to give our students piles of worksheets, but instead give them learning opportunities that engage them as learners and leaders. Our goal is to apprentice our students in the art of learning. This is a very different goal than simply trying to get them through the textbook each year! I encourage you to read through the Common Core Standards for yourself. You will quickly get an idea of how general they really are. When you see the popup of the Common Core, ask yourself if it is one of those standards that is the problem, or if it is the curriculum that is being used. If you are a parent, I encourage you to get involved with your school. Ask what curriculum is being used and why. Don’t feel bound by the tests (they are a poor measure of who your child is anyway). Encourage your school to look at ways that they can meet standards without being bound to curriculum. When those Facebook posts popup, speak out about the problem with better specifics “this curriculum is ridiculous, where is the real learning experience?!” If you are a teacher, I get it-sometimes you don’t get to make the choice. If you have wiggle room and aren’t using a completely scripted curriculum, take advantage of it! Connect with other educators who are doing things differently. Look for ways that you can build foundational skills that aren’t tied endless worksheets and practice drills for the next test. Help your kids fall in love with learning. Be transparent, show them why you are passionate about learning.

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Edublog Award Nominations 2010

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, inspiration, Teacher Resources | Posted on 17-11-2010

Tags: , , , ,

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It is that time again, Edublog Award nomination.  This is a time of year I look forward to…and dread.  It is a great time to learn about new blogs/educators/resources as the nominations go out, but it is also becoming increasingly difficult for me to nominate.  My Google Reader is packed full of favorites.  I need many more categories than those that edublogs supplies!  After much deliberation, here are my nominations:

Best individual blog- @TheNerdyTeacher http://www.thenerdyteacher.com/ for his epic posts on all things education and pop culture. Saved by the Bell is a favorite.
Best individual tweeter – @ShellTerrell I have no idea how Shelly does it, but she is incredible!
Best group blog – http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/ This is an incredible group of educators, I love their individual blogs but when they come together it is magic.
Best new blog – http://gret.wordpress.com I love reading each of Greta’s posts, I am so glad she decided to start a blog!
Best class blog – http://alfordnews.wordpress.com/ Kelly does such a great job with her class blog, I love the way she creates Smilebox creations of what her kiddos are doing to share with parents.
Best resource sharing blog – http://freetech4teachers.com Richard is a resource sharing rock star.
Most influential blog post – http://www.johntspencer.com/2010/02/i-hope-he-stays-lunatic-for-life.html To be fair most of John’s posts are inspirational to me. I think this one sticks out because it reminds me of conversations with my dad about the moon and growing up.
Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion – #cpchat  I have loved seeing this group of administrators come together.
Best teacher blog –@whatedsaid http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/ Edna always leaves me thinking and working to make myself better. Plus the visual learner in me loves her Toon Doo cartoons for each post!
Best librarian / library blog – My favorite librarian @shannonmmiller http://vanmeterlibraryvoice.blogspot.com/
Best school administrator blog – @gcouros http://georgecouros.ca/blog/ George provides honest reflection and inspiration around every bend.
Best educational tech support blog- http://jasontbedell.com/ Jason did an outstanding series/ebook about tech integration.
Best elearning / corporate education blog – http://thegatewayto21stcenturyskills.blogspot.com/
Best educational webinar series – Reform Symposium (not sure if I am allowed to nominate this one since I was involved, but want to nominate the rest of the awesome team, it was incredible!)
Lifetime achievement – @cybraryman1 Jerry has an incredible collection of knowledge and resources that he has added to for years. It doesn’t matter what you need or are looking for, Jerry always has it at the ready (including personalized birthday webpages).

That is beyond hard for me!  If you want to see who I would nominate if I could include all of my favorites, check out these Google Bundles edublogger alliance 1 and edublogger alliance 2.

Want to nominate your favorites?

In order to nominate blogs for the 2010 Edublog Awards you have to link to them first!

  • Nominations: Close Friday 3 December!
  • Voting: Ends Tuesday 14 December!
  • Award Ceremony: Wednesday 15 December!

1. Write a post on your blog linking to:

You can nominate:

  1. For as many categories as you like,
  2. But only one nomination per category,
  3. A blog (or site) for more than one category
  4. Any blog or site you like but not your own blogs (sites) :)

2. Email edublogs the link to your nomination post

Happy nominating!

Comments (6)

Thanks Kelly! You’ve been an inspiration to me this year. Hopefully, some of your dedication rubs off and I can finish the second half of the book.
I tried to respond via DM, but you’re not following.

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelly S Terrell, ktenkely, Beth Harris, artrubicon, Roy Ph-Jacobs and others. Roy Ph-Jacobs said: iLearn Technology » Blog Archive » Edublog Award Nominations 2010: My Google Reader is packed… http://goo.gl/fb/Qwa5o […]

Thanks for the nomination!

Thank you!
Readers should know that:
Kelly’s was one of the first blogs I read and was inspired by.
It was when Kelly started a blogging alliance that I became involved with other bloggers. She has supported me in several contexts and broadened my thinking. Her modeling, guidance and inspiration for educators worldwide is exceptional.
To be nominated by you is really meaningful!

Wow Kelly! Thanks so much! I’m humbled by your nomination. It seriously means a lot!
You have so much to do with my blog. Thanks for inspiring and supporting me every day.

Kelly! Thanks so much! Loved collaborating with you this year and you’re on my nominations as well! Thanks for the joy you bring to the PLN!

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