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5802Re: Something's Rotten About the Common Core | Alternet

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  • Jeannette LaFors
    Feb 2, 2014
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      Greetings Fellow BVHM Community Members,
      In response to the posting about the Common Core I want to invite you to learn more about the standards -- and encourage you to read them yourself. The English Language Arts and mathematics standards are available on the following website: www.corestandards.org.
      So many people read commentary on the Common Core Standards and draw conclusions about them based on others' opinions rather than what they experience themselves.
      In English Language Arts there are Anchor Standards that apply to all the grades in reading, writing, listening & speaking, and language. Just to give you an example, below are three key ideas related to the Reading Anchor Standards.
      • Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
      • Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
      • Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
      I think you would find it compelling to read grade-level expectations for you own child's grade. You can also check out the appendices if you want to read:
      a) about research supporting key elements of the standards (Appendix A)
      b) examples of texts and performance tasks that are grade-level appropriate (Appendix B)
      c) samples of student writing to meet grade level expectations (Appendix C)
      In math, I highly recommend reading the Standards for Mathematical Practice (http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice) to learn what mathematically proficient students are expected to be able to do across the grades. I also think it is worthwhile to dive into some your child's specific grade-level standards in math. Overall the grade-level standards in math emphasize focus, coherence and rigor and they are designed to help all students get ready for college- and career-level mathematics, not just a select few. You may already know that if a student does not successfully complete an Advanced Algebra course (or equivalent integrated math course) with a grade of "C" or better, they are not even eligible to apply for our state's 4-year public universities.
      You can also check out sample math test items online. You'll see many of them that demand more from students than selecting an answer from a list of 4-5 options. (http://sampleitems.smarterbalanced.org/itempreview/sbac/index.htm)
      California also adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which outline what students ought to learn and be able to do in science from grades K-12. You can read more at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/sc/ngssintrod.asp
      I'd like to share that I grew up in a family that moved frequently because my father served in the military. I attended public schools in California (grades K-1), Massachusetts (grades 2-4; 8-10), Virginia (grades 5-7) and New Jersey (grades 11-12). I was fortunate to have had a number of very capable teachers but I had holes in my learning and was taught some things in one state that I'd already been taught in another. My parents helped me bridge the gaps -- but not all students have parents who have the experience and knowledge my college-educated parents had.
      I spent seven years as a high school teacher and many more as an administrator, researcher, professional developer and advocate. When I first started teaching in 1991, the only standards guiding the courses I taught were those approved by our school board. The district where I taught had eight feeder districts -- each with its own set of course content standards. When students arrived at our district as 9th graders, they hadn't all been taught to a common set of standards and many of them struggled in comparison to their peers from feeder districts where expectations for students had been higher and where the instruction ensured students learned to those high expectations. When we high school teachers met with teachers from the eight different K-8 districts, we didn't have much common ground, leadership, or resources to support a coherent progression of learning that ensured all of our students would be prepared for college and career.
      In 1997 and 1998, California adopted a set of statewide curriculum standards for grades K-12 in mathematics, English Language Arts, English Language Development, History-Social Science and Science to ensure that all students across the state would have access to critical skills and information. The standards were not perfect -- far from it; but California and other states across the country began to take stock of where every student stood in relation to the standards. The assessments -- also far from perfect -- still revealed strengths and weaknesses in individual students' academic achievement and schools' ability to help students achieve proficiency with specified content knowledge and skills. Critical lessons from the first wave of standards inform the development of the Common Core State Standards and improve upon the first sets of standards born over 15 years ago.
      Business leaders, teachers (including union leaders), college educators, and other educational leaders and experts including the Chief State School Officers, our state educational leaders, and SFUSD's district leaders have endorsed the CCSS and NGSS. I'm happy to talk more about the standards.
      Jeannette LaFors, (Director of Equity Initiatives, The Education Trust-West in Oakland, CA)
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