Step 1: Unpack the Standards
According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative website, “the Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.” The Common Core State Standards provide educators with clear educational goals, encourage higher order thinking through rigorous research-based content, and focus on the essential knowledge and skills that students must know to be career and college ready (Common Core State Standards Initiative Website, 2012; Public Schools of North Carolina, State Board of Education 3rd Grade ELAR Crosswalk). Ultimately, the Common Core State Standards are intended to define what students need to know to be successful, not how to teach them. It is up to the individual states, schools, administrators, and teachers to outline a path for successful implementation.
The act of unpacking the standards gives educators a clear picture of what the new standards mean and what specific knowledge and skills a student must learn to ensure they are on a path to success. As a result, there are three primary questions educators must consider as they begin to unpack the standards in their classrooms:
- What are the Common Core Standards? The standards’ origins were derived from the most effective state standards models across the country, and they were developed by teachers, administrators, and industry-leading experts (New York State Common Core Standards Overview). Before implementing the standards, educators must first understand them, their origin, and their intent. Teachers should understand that the standards are not designed to dictate how to teach or what can be taught, rather they provide a clear evidence-based set of academic standards that benchmark where students should be to ensure career and college readiness (Common Core State Standards Webinar Presentation, 2010).
- How are the standards that exist today changing? 45 states and Washington D.C. have fully adopted the standards. Each state that is choosing to adopt the standards is doing so on their own timeline. States that choose to adopt the Common Core State Standards must do so in their entirety. However; states can also add up to 15% of their own-state specific content (New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards, 2011). For example, if a state chooses to add outside grade levels or subject areas, they can do so here.
- What do they mean to me and my students? Before implementing the standards in classrooms, educators should understand them. They must clearly understand and unpack the concepts that are changing, what their students are expected to learn and when, and what additional knowledge and skills are required of students to truly achieve standards mastery (Common Core Instructional Shifts, 2011).
Note: This post is step one in a ten post blog series titled Common Core Transition Success. Stay tuned to the Edmentum Blog for Step 2: Crosswalking to find Commonalities