It's Elementary!

         an online forum for information from the Director of Elementary Education, Kelly K. Cartwright, Ed.D.

August 18, 2011

Common Core Transition

Filed under: K-12 — Kelly Cartwright @ 8:48 am
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As I mentioned last September and October, the Pennsylvania Board of Education adopted the national Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math in July 2010. The Common Core Standards were adopted with a three-year transition plan beginning in the 2010-2011 school year and full implementation by July 1, 2013. As of today, forty-four states have adopted the Common Core. Learn more about the Common Core Standards initiative by clicking here. The main goal of the Common Core was to create standards that are research and evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and are internationally benchmarked.

On August 25, all elementary professional staff members will be introduced to the Common Core Standards with both a general overview and a grade level specific session. The Common Core Standards focus on Mathematics and English Language Arts and will replace Pennsylvania’s existing Academic Standards. Our challenge lies in the two-year transition period between now and July 1, 2013: We must shift our focus toward the Common Core Standards while  preparing students for the PSSA based on the PA Academic Standards through the 2013 administration.

We are blessed with two highly competent supervisors, Lisa Mumma and Michelle Trasborg, who plan to guide us through this transition every step of the way. Together, we will make the shift successfully. One benefit I recognize is that the Common Core underscores the importance of teaching reading and writing across the curriculum. Teachers in all disciplines will be expected to help foster literacy development, as research indicates that discipline-based instruction in reading and writing increases student achievement in all subjects. Anne Beninghof highlighted that concept for us this summer in her Differentiated Instruction sessions when she provided a number of strategies to help us make vocabulary instruction more effective by using vocabulary in a variety of contexts to improve students’ retention and comprehension.

At the elementary level, this interdisciplinary planning and instruction occurs frequently and fairly naturally, making this aspect of the shift a little easier for us. District initiatives such as the implementation of Marzano’s instructional strategies, common assessments, and Professional Learning Communities will remind us to use a variety of texts and writing assignments, provide scaffolding to students who need it, provide multiple forms of feedback, and reflect upon our practice in order to maintain our focus on student learning.

To change instructional practice in ways that yield real gains in student achievement, professional development needs to: extend across 50 hours, connect to a school initiative, foster collaboration among teachers, and focus on the teaching and learning of specific academic content. National Council of Teachers of English, March 2011

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