Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Common Core: A Teacher Educator Offers Advice on Adopting and Adapting the Common Core

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Common Core: A Teacher Educator Offers Advice on Adopting and Adapting the Common Core

Article excerpt

When the Common Core first appeared, circa 2009, I spent a great deal of time fretting about it. I didn't like the top-down approach taken by the expert panels assembled to craft the standards in English language arts and mathematics. I didn't like their secrecy, and I didn't like the absence of teachers or scholars with expertise in early childhood education on their expert panels. Most important, I believed that many of the standards for grades K-2 might be developmentally inappropriate for young children.

By 2012, I'd stopped fretting. At the time, the Common Core State Standards had been adopted by 44 states, and public school teachers in those states were required to teach to them --whether they liked them or not. As a teacher educator in California, my job was to engage teaching credential candidates in conversations about how to interpret and implement those standards, not to raise concerns about them.

As it turned out, my concerns went away all on their own. Over time, I found myself embracing the standards as it became clear that they made positive contributions to my work as a teacher educator.

Three essential elements

I've found that in order to teach the Common Core effectively, educators must create academic experiences that weave together three key elements: the needs of the given students, the particular standards to be learned, and attention to developmentally appropriate practices. All three are equally critical.

1. The specific students in your class(es).

2. The Common Core State Standards for your grade level(s)

3. Developmentally appropriate practices

#1. Focus on your students first.

An effective lesson or curriculum unit should begin with thoughtful consideration of the needs of the specific students in your class. The standards in the Common Core do not require a particular pedagogy. Each one can be taught in many different ways, which means that teachers have a lot of leeway to choose classroom experiences and activities that tap the interests, skills, or curiosities of the specific students in the class, turning a solid lesson into something much more engaging and memorable.

#2. Pick only the most important standards.

Teachers are expert at shoehorning a variety of standards into a single lesson, covering as much content as possible. This may seem reasonable, given the specter of high-stakes tests looming in everyone's minds. …

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