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

December 8, 2010

Pennsylvania Standards Aligned System (SAS)

Filed under: K-12 — Kelly Cartwright @ 5:35 pm
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This week I attended my third (at least) multi-day conference over the past year during which the SAS portal was the focal point. PDE unveiled the SAS portal about a year ago, and continues to add to and update the site as changes occur. One important change that must be incorporated into the site will be the transition from the Pennsylvania Academic Standards to the Common Core Standards.  

If you have not visited the site yet, I strongly encourage you to do so. There are a variety of resources available to educators and it promises to keep getting better. You may easily register ( as a user by providing your name, e-mail address, and a password. Once you have explored the site, I encourage you to continue to visit in order to stay abreast of the changes, particularly with regard to the Common Core Standards.

The Pennsylvania Standards Aligned System (SAS) is a collaborative project of research and good practice that identifies six distinct elements that ensure student achievement and provides a common framework for continuous school and district enhancement and improvement.

Clear Standards describe what students should know and be able to do. The assessment anchors clarify the standards assessed on the PSSA. Eligible content identifies how deeply an anchor should be explored and specifies the range of content to best prepare students for the PSSA.

Fair Assessment is a process used by teachers and students before, during, and after instruction to provide feedback and adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve student achievement. The four types of assessment include summative, formative, benchmark, and diagnostic.

Curriculum Framework components include big ideas, concepts, competencies, essential questions, vocabulary, and exemplars.

Aligned Instruction includes teaching topics aligned with the standards, ensuring the right level of challenge, focusing teaching based on the learning needs of each student, and implementing instructional strategies to increase student achievement.

Materials & Resources includes the Voluntary Model Curriculum (VMC) incorporating learning progressions, units, lesson plans, and content resources aligned to the standards in curriculum frameworks for the four major content areas (math, science, social studies, and reading-writing-speaking-listening). Learning progressions span grades K-12 and include what all students should know and be able to do as a result of successfully moving through grades K-8 and taking specific courses in grades 9-12.

Interventions ensure students are provided with supports they need to meet or exceed grade level standards. A comprehensive system of interventions involves a graduated set of safety nets aligned to specific student needs and Standards.

As a district, we are planning to include information and training on the Common Core beginning in April 2011 and into next school year. You will be hearing much more about SAS and the Common Core Standards, which go into effect on July 1, 2013. Learn more about the Common Core Standards initiative by clicking here.

When we treat a person as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make of him what he should be. Goethe

October 23, 2010

Common Core Standards

Filed under: Elementary — Kelly Cartwright @ 8:50 am

I attended a two day conference a few weeks ago, and two of the five speakers (in two out of six sessions) addressed the Common Core Standards.

One speaker was Gene Wilhoit, the Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C. He has held positions in the Department of Education in two states as well as the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Richard Long is the Director of Government Relations for the International Reading Association and Executive Director for the State Title I Directors Association. He consults with USA Today, the World Health Organization, and several US government agencies and education groups. Both men were full of enlightening information and I enjoyed their sessions. The proportion of time spent on the Common Core resonated with me on the importance of understanding what is coming our way in less than three years.

There are still many details to work through as we make this transition. There is talk of a national test to replace the PSSA. There is talk of computer adaptive tests becoming more prevalent. The Keystones Exams must also fit in to this equation.

There are two state consortia that are working to develop assessments aligned to the new reading/language arts and mathematics standards. The US Department of Education, as part of the Race to the Top initiative, has awarded $33 million toward the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Washington-led SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. The PARCC consortium will replace the current end of year test used for accountability purposes with a series of assessments administered at different points during the year. SMARTER will continue the annual test for accountability and create benchmark assessments to inform instruction.

The IU staff has been and will continue to be a valuable resource as we transition to the Common Core. Representatives from the IU have been working on state teams to compare the Pennsylvania Academic Standards to the Common Core and providing us with regular updates. Dr. Mann and I will be attending a four day conference in December to learn more about the Common Core in conjunction with PDE’s Standards Aligned System (SAS). We will continue to share information as we receive it.

Never underestimate the smallest of acts that keep a child from falling through the cracks, help another fit in, or turn a life around: a smile, a word of praise, a listening ear, a kind word, an act of caring…all have the potential to be a turning point in a child’s life. Leo Buscaglia

September 21, 2010

Common Core Standards

Filed under: Elementary — Kelly Cartwright @ 2:33 pm

Following a six-month review, the State Board of Education adopted the national Common Core standards for English/Language Arts (ELA) and Math in July. The Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) then voted to approve those standards. 

The Common Core Standards were adopted by the State Board as an amendment to the existing Chapter 4 regulations (Academic Standards and Assessment) with a three-year transition to begin during the 2010-11 school year and full implementation by July 1, 2013.  (Learn more about the Common Core Standards initiative by clicking here.)

The three-year transition timeline established by the State Board is intended to help ensure clear, consistent expectations for students and educators throughout the implementation. To inform this process, the board has been holding a series of statewide roundtables to gather feedback from education stakeholders. The local date and location is Harrisburg on Monday, September 27, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Honors Suite (1st floor), 333 Market Street, 17126. To register to participate in any session, contact Adam Schott, the board’s Executive Director, at (717) 787-3787.

At this point, committees that include representatives from IU13 have been examining the Common Core standards in comparison to the PA Academic standards. Committee members are finding a strong correlation among the ELA standards; they are not finding such a strong match among the math standards. CVSD is following this development closely and will keep teachers informed as we learn more.

Whoever you are, there is some younger person who thinks you are perfect. There is some work that will never be done if you don’t do it. There is someone who would miss you if you were gone. There is a place that you alone can fill. Jacob M. Braude

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