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School Stories

Wanted: Common Core Stories

After the big splash of Common Core Standards coming on the education scene there’s been a notable silence since they have begun to roll out.

I’m looking for stories of how these new standards are playing out in schools for better, the same, or worse.  I began asking as we pulled new calendars out of their plastic wrapping and hung them where 2011 used to be.

So far I have heard that it’s pretty much a blind scramble as districts and teachers try to make changes. I’m hearing that in some classes these changes are minimal and others visible. Some folks are saying that as far as standards go these are pretty good and helping to create more differentiated learning in classrooms. I’m also hearing that they are gnawing away at the viability of standardized tests and creating a push for authentic assessments. On the dark side, there was a story about a principle becoming “the standards’ police” barging into classrooms and pop quizzing teachers on the standards. It’s also of course a golden opportunity for education corporations to redesign their textbooks and curricula to sell for big money.

So what’s your story? I ask out of curiosity and because I think honest dialogue during periods of change can take the frustration and shame out of “early prototyping” and help create better models in the long run.

About Adam Burk

Adam aims to serve the greater good; alleviate unnecessary suffering; and create beautiful, sane human communities in concert with the living planet. Recently, he has helped to rebuild local food systems in Maine in large part through school food services, organized the TEDxDirigo conference, and is a digital organizer with the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA).


12 thoughts on “Wanted: Common Core Stories

  1. Many years ago MA teachers adapted to State curriculum standards. A positive aspect to this is that it gave us common goals and language with respect to teaching, the downside has been that sometimes the goals and standards outweigh a child’s readiness or the time in the day, thus leaving little time for other aspects of good teaching. We’ve worked with these challenges by integrating content, skills, goals and tools for best effect. Now MA has laid out a path to the common core. We just started looking at the what that will means for our curriculum. Our system is hosting a speaker at the end of the year to introduce these changes with greater detail, and I imagine that we’ll begin implementing the changes next year with greater intent. At our level, the changes will be minimal as the MA standards and common core are similar. Thanks for posing this question. I will be interested in reading what other schools are doing to make this change.

    Posted by Maureen Devlin | January 15, 2012, 9:15 am
  2. Standards that “create more differentiation” provokes interest because it almost sounds like an oxymoron. Regarding the Common Core, I believe Iowa is ahead of Wisconsin – see #IAED, Jen Sigrist or BWagoner(sp.).

    Posted by Mark Flynn | January 15, 2012, 4:25 pm
  3. I see no sign of authentic assessment. Where did that come from? Clarify please.

    Posted by Sandra | January 15, 2012, 7:40 pm
  4. I am an Instructional Coach in Albuquerque, NM. Our district has some 4th and 8th grade teachers who elected to pilot the CCSS this year. Funding for this project is thanks to the Gates Foundation. In 2013, all grade levels will be implementing these standards. The Instructional Coaches have been able to preview some of the components of the new standards, including the teaching of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by David Coleman, one of CCSS “architects”. This past Friday, we were told that the standards would enable teachers to once again be autonomous in the classroom. We got to watch more videos of a teacher (an 8th grade teacher from our district who was piloting the CCSS) whose lesson was based on a standard from CCSS. I was also asked by our district to attend a two day workshop presented by the Dana Center on how to “roll out” CCSS with teachers.

    My impression of CCSS?

    Before our children can meet standards with even more rigor than those in most states, they must be well fed and healthy. That is certainly not the case in most states, and is the main reason that children are not achieving their current state standards. If children in poverty are not currently achieving with their state standards, how will they achieve with more rigorous CCSS?

    I would definitely look into David Coleman and other architects of the CCSS. Investigate his background as an educator. Susan has David’s speech introducing the CCSS to an audience of educators. He attempts to teach a lesson on “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. It is frightening.

    I question how the CCSS can once again give teachers autonomy when we will still be working under NCLB or NCLB waivers that still assess schools and teachers on student test scores. From what I have read, the standardized testing for children under CCSS will only be intensified and increased. Who will this benefit? Methinks publishers are very excited about CCSS. I still don’t get how these standards will magically give autonomy back to teachers—we will still teaching to the test, just more of them and they will be higher stakes.

    I do appreciate your optimism but please look into the Common Core State Standards. Question and speak out!

    Posted by Francesca Blueher | January 15, 2012, 10:07 pm
    • Francesca, thank you so much for sharing. I have and will continue to question the standards. Here’s a post I wrote in early 2010 that provides ample insight into my feelings and thoughts on them:

      I will look into David Coleman’s talk. Hopefully, I will be able to sleep after watching it or is it that frightening?

      More soon,

      Posted by Adam Burk | January 15, 2012, 10:16 pm
      • I enjoyed your 2010 article….with that in mind, I am thinking that you better not watch the disturbing video before sleeping so you can rest well! Maybe you should watch it in the morning before school….it will fuel your passion for changing our educational system from a standards-based, data driven, culturally impoverished structure to a culturally rich, diverse, engaging system that values children’s gifts.
        Thanks for responding.

        Posted by Francesca Blueher | January 15, 2012, 10:30 pm
        • Francesca,

          If you are referencing Mr. Coleman’s April 28, 1011 presentation, I must say I found it deeply disturbing. I am certain there were more than just the three messages Mr. Coleman suggested were present.

          I had not thought CCSS was a great idea to begin with. If his approach is what will be imposed, this nation-state is in more trouble than I imagined (and I have imagined a great deal).

          Best wishes in surviving CCSS,

          Posted by Brent Snavely | January 16, 2012, 1:18 pm
  5. We are going it alone, but somehow still doing it wrong, in Virginia.

    That being said, while I have heard people speak positively about the common core standards, they have done so with the same rhetoric of rigor and assessment that I’ve heard used to promote NCLB and the scant revisions our state standards (the Standards of Learning, or SOL) have undergone in the past decade.

    I’m not for the addition of anything that fits inside or on top of the way we teach and manage now.

    Do the Common Core standards move us closer to excellent work, rather than excellent scores? Do they do away with tracking? Do they promote interdisciplinary study? Do they champion inquiry? Democratic education? Community-based education?

    The difficult change are ours to make; I doubt we’ll find them in any policy, no matter how well intended or rigorous.


    Posted by Chad Sansing | January 16, 2012, 12:40 pm
  6. The CCSS sparked the school district I work for to pull the dusty curriculum guides off the shelf and start using our state (Indiana) crosswalks to replace state standards with CCSS when/where appropriate. I am the Technology Director for the district, so our Curriculum Director asked if I could design a program to help facilitate keeping the curriculum “alive” as we transition (and beyond) rather than typing them in Word Documents and keeping them a shared drive on the network until the next meeting. I created the program and it was met with such teacher enthusiasm that I am now re-writing it to work for any school district. Since it is based on the CCSS, almost all public schools will be able to use it to do Curriculum Mapping. It has really helped our district facilitate the transition to the CCSS because teachers can collaboratively edit units within a grade level or subject area, share resources, share assessments, make notes, drop units on a calendar to help with pacing, and in doing so the curriculum is becoming “magically” aligned horizontally. Once curriculum is complete, teachers/administrators are able to check for vertical alignment and look for gaps and/or overlaps in the standards that are taught. Again, we’ve made great strides in implementation by having this simple tool. I’m really anxious to make it available to more schools as quickly as possible. I plan for the program to be ready in early February.

    Posted by Tamra Ranard, | January 16, 2012, 2:53 pm
  7. If you want to learn about the Common Core, ASCD has a ton of resources available. They have also been working with districts to use a tool that will help make the transition easier and to help teachers move toward thinking in units rather than lessons and pages in a teachers guide. More here:

    Posted by marybethhertz | January 16, 2012, 3:44 pm
  8. I’ve been an educator for nearly 40 years. I was a strong proponent of the first “national” standards–the voluntary ones, created by disciplinary organizations in the 1990s, as curricular models, organizing and sequencing critical content. I used the Music Educators’ National Conference (MENC) music standards–very successfully–for a decade. The NCTM and NCTE standards opened up national conversations about how and what to teach in Math and Language Arts–contentious conversations, but necessary ones. NOTE: those original national standards (which nobody talks about any more) were created by teacher organizations, and not attached to specific curricula or assessments. They were designed as tools to assist teachers, departments, districts to ensure that the most important content was well-taught. They were a loose framework of basics.

    The Common Core Everything is a different animal. Yes, there two (federally funded) consortia (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) creating assessments aligned with the Common Core Standards. Yes, the Gates Foundation has joined forces with Pearson to create on-line curricula aligned with the Common Core-porate Standards. Yes, this will become a huge boondoggle for Pearson, the largest publisher (not just ed publisher, publisher) in the world. The next hoops states will jump through will be adopting the assessments, then purchasing the curricula. One nation, under standards.

    I spent time last summer working with the CCS, creating model units for teachers to use, and cross-walking the CCS with the Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations. There’s quite a bit of overlap. And while I wasn’t excited about the CCS, I didn’t see anything malevolent. They’re…OK. But the standards aren’t the point, really. The idea is to standardize everything–standards, curriculum, assessments and, eventually (given Gates’ new MET evaluations) instruction. Leaving private education as the only way to escape from Monolithic public schools.

    I also used to think that people like me were out-there conspiracy theorist types. The last couple of years, delving into the research, has changed my mind.

    Posted by Nancy Flanagan | January 25, 2012, 2:00 pm

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