I wanted to begin part 3 of this series with a couple of quotes taken from the responses to the first two blog posts in this series.

Part 2 Kayyawn2 wrote:

“Even so, the “massiveness” problem, so to speak, has nothing really to do with how many standards or objectives there are. Rather, it lies with including “rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills.” The massive has to do with the Core Standards lists as what makes up a proficient student: capable of reasoning abstractly and quantitatively; construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others; apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace; use appropriate tools strategically; attend to precision; look for and make use of structure; look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. I don’t know about you, but to me that is a lot! The massiveness of the standards comes as the ‘balanced combination of procedures and understanding.”

And in Part 1 a commenter wrote:

Thus, I ask, “Is it too much to ask the “all knowing elite” to discuss with the teachers the needs of both students and teachers in order to get valuable academics understood and taught?” There is no magic pill. We are dealing with humans and real-life situations. Teachers can be familiar with whatever is thrown out there. We can ask ourselves all day long, “What materials and resources will I need?” but money for supplies/aides, time, and support will go a long way in helping to accomplish teaching these “simple” 26 math or 42 language objectives. So, yes, expecting the teachers to always be the ones, only ones, to give a considerable amount of work, time, own money, sweat and tears; is expecting too much. There is only so much time in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month, and months in a given school year.

Both of these comments do a better job of illustrating my point than I ever could. The complexity of teaching is much more than just a set of standards and in this case the issue is not the massiveness of the Common Core State Standards, rather the issue relates to the massive job teachers face every day to ensure those core concepts are mastered by each student; a nearly impossible task that has contributed to the formation and perpetuation of an achievement gap.

For far to long we have addressed the student achievement gap from the macro prospective. We create laws that mandate performance improvement through testing. Expensive programs are created by enterprising companies and sold to our most at risk schools with the simple intention of profiting from the Title funds meant to level the playing field. Books are written and gurus arise to stand and deliver sermons for success. Teachers are inundated with solutions that replace solutions that replace solutions. With so many solutions, experts, programs and dollars spent, why do we have so few examples of real success?

In order to close the “macro” achievement gap, we must first look at the “micro” gap that exists in our schools: this is the gap between a teacher’s love of teaching and their ability to monitor student performance relative to the core. Ponder that for a moment and ask yourself…does that make any sense to you? What happens when a dedicated teacher ignores or minimizes the core or fails to adequately assess and monitor a student’s performance relative to the core? What happens to a student when this occurs year over year, knowing the CCSS uses a scaffolding structure? Ultimately, what, in terms of academic content, is a teacher hired to teach? If the answer to that last question is the core, why aren’t we monitoring student performance relative to the core? Why don’t we provide parents with a breakdown of the core concepts and their child’s level of proficiency on each? If we could address student achievement at this “micro” level and if there were tools to help teachers bridge the micro gap, what would happen to the macro achievement gap?

This series of questions led to an often-asked series of rhetorical questions; Wouldn’t it be great if…

· teachers could monitor student performance relative to the core?
· teachers could create and share common formative assessments?
· teachers could connect and collaborate with other colleagues all over the country?
· parents had access to the core standards and were notified of their child’s mastery of the standards?
· teachers had tools that could make assessing students fast and efficient?
· we could really address the issues that make mastery of the core standards such a massive job?

One last question…wouldn’t it be great if a tool existed that addresses all of the questions from above? If it did, we just might be able to bridge the micro gap and close the macro gap while addressing kayyawn2’s point:

“Yes, delivery of the content is everything. It isn’t whether or not a teacher can recite the Core Standards, but if he/she can deliver the Standards in a meaningful, long lasting manner, “mastery”, for each child to understand within his/her own realm of learning, to carry on to the next year and on into life. That, my friend, is massive.”

Checkout http://masteryconnect.com

Hopefully you have had enough time to look at the Common Core State Standards and begin to formulate your own impression of their quality, rigor, relevance and most important to our conversation…their massiveness. Let me first begin by acknowledging the incredible complexities involved in teaching “all” students “all” the core concepts to mastery. My intent is not to minimize this fact, or even suggest that it can be done with fidelity, rather it is to illustrate that the core is not the primary obstacle to overcome. The primary obstacle is practice.

The math CCSS maintain the same basic organizational structure for grades K-5 and again in grades 6-8. While the structure is basically the same, the level of complexity grows year over year. This ultimately means that the majority of concepts being introduced to students are merely an extension of concepts they have encountered in previous years. Consider the example below:

Fourth Grade Numbers and Operations Base Ten
4.NBT.1 Recognize that in a multi-digit whole number, a digit in one place represents ten times what it represents in the place to its right. For example, recognize that 700 ÷ 70 = 10 by applying concepts of place value and

Fifth Grade Numbers and Operations Base Ten
5.NBT.1 Recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left.

While both standards deal with base ten operations, the fifth grade example adds a level of complexity to the previous years standard. It becomes much more difficult to argue “massiveness” when very few standards are being introduced for the first time. Assuming the previous year’s teacher taught the standard and monitored student performance relative to that standard, the students will have the foundational knowledge to achieve mastery of the new information. That is a lot of assuming given that many teachers rarely view the core or rely on the textbook to drive instruction. Again, we come back to the idea that the primary obstacle to student achievement is not the “massiveness” of the core. The primary obstacle is practice.

I recently read a blog on Gotham Schools by Mark Anderson where he wrote:

“What is fundamental to the world children live in, at least within the confines of the classroom, is the content that is delivered to them. And what is even more fundamental is how this content — the curriculum — is delivered to them. Standing at the focal point of this delivery, so central and influential in a student’s immediate realm of existence, is the teacher.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The Common Core State Standards continue to be the subject of considerable debate. Much of the debate surrounds the impact the standards have on “local control” of what is being taught in our schools. I believe this to been an offshoot of the age-old dilemma of school and teacher autonomy…how much autonomy do we give. Standards ultimately limit teacher autonomy…that is…they limit a teacher’s autonomy to choose what is taught. This is the nature of all core standards whether we are addressing the CCSS or individual State standards, but they do not limit a teacher’s autonomy to choose how they will teach a concept. The notion that the Common Core State Standards are an infringement on teacher autonomy to determine how they will teach or that they are too “massive” is just a myth.

Part 3 The Mastery Movement: Solutions

The Myth of the Massive Core

(Initiation of the Common Core State Standards)

Part 1:

Over the years I have heard many an exasperated teacher bemoan the impossibility of getting through all the content found in the “outrageously massive” core curriculum. Typically, this frustration is shared in faculty meetings or team meetings with the expectation that everyone in the room will understand and concede the point. The “massive core” has become an accepted truism in education and the convenient response to more than a few difficult questions:

“My child seems to be struggling with (fill-in the blank) concept…what are you going to do to get my child caught up?”…. “I would love to stop everything and just focus on this issue…but the core is soooo massive”…

“Have you developed a curriculum map to guide your instruction?”… “Sure… I have created a loose map that targets the key objectives…I can’t teach it all because the core is soooo massive”…

“How do you monitor student understanding of the core standards?” … “I do the best I can…it is very difficult to focus on the core directly because it is soooo massive” …

“Are you familiar with the core standards?” “Of course…I have been teaching (fill-in the blank) grade for years and am pretty sure I understand it as well as anyone…but seriously, the core is soooo massive….”

So…just how massive are the Common Core State Standards? The table below simply identifies the number of standards found in each subject and grade level.

 

Grade #of Math Objectives # of L/A Objectives
First 21 44
Second 26 42
Third 25 44
Fourth 27 44
Fifth 26 44
Sixth 29 43

 

Clearly the table does not provide enough information to determine the amount of time it takes to teach a concept, assess for student mastery and re-teach and reassess when needed.Teachers will need to actually spend time evaluating the core…they will need to become intimately familiar with the outlined concepts and expectations. They will need to determine how they are going to teach the concepts…will the current textbook work? What materials and resources will I need? What order will I teach the concept and how will I assess and monitor my students’ performance? A considerable amount of work to be sure, but is it asking too much of our teachers?

Take some time to review the Common Core State Standards and decide for yourself.

Free App to get you started!

IOS http://t.co/MNoRVCb

Android too, http://t.co/y7pToLj

Part 2 in this series will address the myth head-on and debunk the “Myth of the Massive Core”.

Common Core App

June 4th, 2011

We’re excited to announce the release of our FREE Common Core app now available in the iTunes App Store and Android Marketplace! This is a free tool provided by MasteryConnect that allows you to view the Common Core State Standards on your iPhone/iPad/iPod or Android mobile device. In the app, we’ve synthesized the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCR’s) for Language Arts and included both the Traditional as well as Integrated pathways for Math grades K-12.

To download the app, simply search for MasteryConnect or Common Core in the app store on your device and find the FREE Common Core App by MasteryConnect.

Or, go directly to the links of each store below:

iTunes App Store
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/common-core-standards/id439424555?mt=8

Android Marketplace
https://market.android.com/details?id=com.masteryconnect.CommonCore

We’d love for you to forward this email, Tweet it, or post it on FaceBook! The app is free for everyone to use!

Thanks,
The MasteryConnect Team