Changes in Classroom Practice

Common Core Standards and Classroom Practice

How will teachers that used the State Standards as their guide adjust their classroom practice to meet the new standards? Now that Math and English Language Arts Common Core Standards have been adopted in states all over the country, teachers are working to refine their practice to meet the goals as outlined in the Common Core documents.  Common Core Standards are similar to the state standards, but there are differences. 

Here are some differences to consider :

In Mathematics
1. Deep Focus vs. Wide Focus. The Common Core Standards focus on fewer topics but in greater depth. For example,  number sense in the elementary concentrates more on arithmetic and less on geometry. Some topics, like the calendar are not included at all, and there are no standards for data and statistics until sixth grade.  Understanding will be key as they move on to more advanced topics.

2. Consistent Relationships The Common Core Standards (CCS), by contrast with the State Standards, are designed to build on students’ understanding by introducing new topics in skills and concepts from grade to grade. The CCS also build coherence within grades—by building relationships between Standards. For example, in seventh grade the Standards show that students’ understanding of ratio and proportion—used in applications such as calculating interest—is related to their understanding of equations.

3. Skills, Understanding, and Application. Each aspect of mathematics knowledge is  important and equal to each other. Students will need to know procedures , develop a deep conceptual understanding, and be able to apply their knowledge to solve problems.

4. Emphasis on Practices. The CCS have eight criteria for mathematical practices. These include making sense of problems and persevering to solve them, reasoning abstractly and quantitatively, using appropriate tools strategically, and constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others. These practices are intended to be integrated with the standards for mathematical content.  Students will need to demonstrate the standards of practice, for example; students will need time to work on problems rather than quick surface solutions, and determining what tool fits a problem.

In English Language Arts
5. More Nonfiction. CCS have a greater emphasis on nonfiction. The document proposes that about half the reading in elementary school and 75 percent in high school should be nonfiction. This would include informational texts in content areas as well as literary nonfiction in English language arts.  Narrative fiction will become less common. The Standards also expect students to write more expository prose.

6. Focus on Evidence. In reading, students will be expected to use evidence to demonstrate their comprehension of texts and make evidence-based claims. To prepare students, time to read carefully and in many cases reread texts several times will be need to be considered.  In writing, students are expected to cite evidence to justify statements rather than rely on opinions or personal feelings.

7. Building Blocks of Text Complexity. Students will be expected to read and comprehend complex texts to reach the level of complexity required for success in college courses and the workplace.  Teachers will have to choose materials that is appropriate for their grade level and evaluate complexity.

8. Speaking and Listening. The CCS expect students to be able to demonstrate that they can speak and listen effectively which was not evident in state standards. A measurement for student performance for speaking and listening will follow. Teachers will be asking students to engage in small-group and whole-class discussions with evaluations of understanding the speakers’ points.

9. Literacy in the Content Areas. The Standards include criteria for literacy in history/social science, science, and technical subjects. CCS recognize that understanding texts in each of these subject areas requires a unique set of skills and understanding.  History teachers and their students will be gaining information from a historical document and making judgments about its credibility. Science teachers will need to do the same for materials in that discipline.

In order for Common Core Standards to be understood and  implemented, extensive and consistent professional development will need to take place in school districts. Teachers will do what they do best, continually learn and refine their current practice to meet high standards.

The book,  Something in Common: The Common Core Standards and the Next Chapter in American Education (Harvard Education Press, 2011) and the article in the July/August 2012 Harvard Education Letter,  Nine Ways the Common Core Will Change Classroom Practice by Robert Rothman were used in creating this posting.

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