Achieving CCSS Success Relies on Aligned Objectives

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Teachers need time and support to read and analyze the standards, not just talk about them.

Teachers need time and support to read and analyze the standards, not just talk about them.

The adoption of national standards is old news. During the summer of 2010, nearly all fifty states adopted the CCSS, however they did little to promote implementation. For most states, the 2014-2015 assessment of implementation was a long way off. But the clock is ticking. Whether you are in a PARCC state or a SBAC state the New Year marks the time for administrators and teachers to go beyond familiarizing themselves and merely talking about Common Core. Now is the time to actually integrate necessary teaching methodologies. As I share with middle and high school teachers the expectations of the CCSS at the primary grades, they are in awe. On the whole, educators agree that  adolescents do not possess many of the learning skills described as indicators of elementary school proficiencies. Digging into the CCSS and identifying targeted skills is the only way that student achievement on the eventual assessments will be fairly measured and student performance will continue to step up on the CCSS learning ladder.

How are educators to do this? By first analyzing each standard across grade levels, beginning in kindergarten, determining or deconstructing the standards they ladder up learning from primary school to intermediate grades and high school. Once they understand what the foundations of the standards, then teachers can begin to build aligned units and daily lesson plans. I’ve said this in previous blogs, but I will say it again. Even high school teachers must look at primary and intermediate standards to understand their grade level standards. This is imperative because the standards spiral and do not repeat what might be an underlying feature of the College and Career Level Standard itself! The student responsibility for questioning does not appear in the standards after grade 3; however, self-questioning and teacher questioning (we all know) is imperative to reading comprehension and high level reading, i.e., critical literacy.

Let me provide an example:

CCSS RI.1.K.1 (Reading for Information.GradeK.Standard1)

1. With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

Knowledge to be taught:

Learner can identify a question in print text What does a question look like?
Learner can distinguish a question from a statement when heard aurally.
Learner can inflect his/her voice in asking a question.
What does a question sound like?
Learner can identify words that describe and name. What is a key detail?
Learner can draw or point to three types of text. For example: a book, a magazine, a newspaper. What is a text?
Learner can determine words that are not details: conjunctions, articles, some adverbs (such as very, really, etc.) What is not a key detail?
Learner can identify elements of a picture that are irrelevant to message being conveyed. What is not a key detail?
Learner can identify questions that are off topic, related to insignificant details, etc. What is not a question about the key details in a text?
Learner waits for an appropriate time to answer a teacher generated question. When do I answer a question? (While it is being asked or after the speaker has finished?)
Learner waits for an appropriate time to answer a self-generated question When should I ask a question about the text? (While the reader is reading or after the reader is finished?)

Some of my readers will post and say I haven’t done a thorough job of targeting this standard. Good—I look forward to that. But many more will read and think this is just too much work. Please, feel free to comment on my targeting—add to what you see that would also need to be taught in grade K to meet the expectations of this standard by the year’s end!! I’ll update as you post!

Unfortunately, the most frequent question I’m asked by teachers is whether they really need to do the deconstructing themselves or whether they can count on a textbook to target standards for them. My response: a textbook is not your curriculum but a tool that provides a vehicle for instruction of essential content knowledge and practice of the essential skills related to specific fields of study. Textbooks index skills and even provide pacing charts based on the text’s progression through listed skill study. Additionally, textbooks index content and resources to use in lesson design, including guided practice. However, textbooks do not deconstruct or target standards (although they indicate sometimes with accuracy what standard a lesson may fulfill). In order to deconstruct standards, educators must work together in determining what specific and essential skills underlie the generalized statement of what students should know and be able to do by the end of a specified instructional period.

By deconstructing or targeting standards within a group of school educators–teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators—schools can ensure that the needs of learners in their community with their specific issues under the tutelage of their professional staff are engaged in sequential learning. Yes, this is work—the work of professionals with university degrees who have been educated to know and understand the essential components of content disciplines (knowing and doing) and the pedagogies of instruction that appropriately challenge the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of learners.

How can this be achieved? The implementation of the CCSS requires efforts on the part of a community of stakeholders. The responsibility for moving CCS into the classroom is not only the work of the classroom teacher, but also of the school’s instructional leader and the state’s leadership. Working time for cadres of teachers to target or deconstruct standards needs to be allocated beyond the school day.

Teachers, need to be professional and make accommodations to their own schedules and be available to support colleagues in this endeavor. If each teacher is left to individually target standards, replication and omission within and between grades will be the result. Curriculum will be a hodgepodge. How to get started? Visit Turn on Your Brain for more ideas and resources.  Or call / email me! I’d love to visit your school! But know this, student success or failure to meet the expectations of the Common Core literacy standards will be the result of the learning objectives teachers eventually design. That is why it is imperative that teaching objectives correlate with the newly adopted expectations.

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