The Common Core State Standards are one of the most significant initiatives in American education in decades. Yet the swiftness with which they were developed and adopted has left educators uncertain about exactly what they are. A number of myths about the standards have emerged.
Myth #1 The Common Core State Standards are a national curriculum.
Americans have long had a leery view of a national curriculum, but the Common Core State Standards do not create this scenario. Standards are not curriculum: standards spell out what students should know and be able to do at the end of a year; curriculum defines the specific course of study—the scope and sequence—that will enable students to meet standards. There are many possible curricula schools could use that would lead students to the Common Core State Standards.
What is ‘essential’ for schools? Three simple things: reasonably coherent curriculum (what we teach); sound lessons (how we teach); and far more purposeful reading and writing in every discipline, or authentic literacy (integral to both what and how we teach). But as numerous studies demonstrate, these three essential elements are only rarely implemented; every credible study confirms that they are still pushed aside by various initiatives, every year, in the majority of schools.
Thus begins Mike Schmoker, author of Results and Results Now, in his new book, Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning. As I read those lines, my mind traveled back to a recent visit to Mobile where I helped facilitate the education retreat for Leadership Alabama – the organization that helped “birth” A+ and that for 20 years has engaged Alabama leaders in dialogue about our state’s challenges and opportunities. Our trip included visits to two impressive school programs that exemplify the importance of focusing on the essentials: a high-poverty, high-achieving elementary school and an innovative second-chance program for older teens who want to finish high school. Read More...
My major takeaways from the Learning Forward conference include some valuable new facilitation protocols that Julie Hannah, Jackie Walsh and I gathered and hope to share in the coming months with many of you who participate in the ABPC networks – and some “big ideas” shared by three memorable keynoters.
Ron Clark Academy: Dynamic Learning
I was also very impressed with “celebrity” educator Ron Clark, who gained a lot of attention some years ago with the publication of his book The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child, accompanied by appearances on Oprah, CNN and other media venues. Clark, a former Disney Teacher of the Year who drew his “rules” from teaching experiences in both North Carolina and Harlem NY, went on to found the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta.
I’ll confess that I was a bit skeptical about what I would...
Advanced Placement Instructional Planning Reports have just arrived at our schools. Every AP teacher needs to get a copy of their report so that they can identify strengths and weaknesses in their curriculum and instruction. You should be able to get your report from your campus AP Coordinator. In this post, I will discuss a simple metric that should allow you to effectively analyze your results in order to improve future students’ performance. Read More...
“Rigorous Schools and Classrooms: Leading the Way” is a follow-up to Barbara Blackburn’s 2008 book, “Rigor is Not a Four-Letter Word” (see Karen Molter’s review here), and the books should be studied together. Both authors are former teachers (Williamson is also a former principal) whose educational careers extend from classroom teachers to respected university researchers.
While Blackburn’s first book was aimed at teachers, this book shows school leaders how to navigate an entire school toward a more rigorous culture and ... Read More...
Today was a celebration for the 3rd group of A+ College Ready schools. These 20 schools have signed on for a big challenge – promising to collectively boost their Advanced Placement (AP) enrollment by 85% in math, science and English.
To celebrate their commitment to this big goal, we organized a ceremony in the State Capitol with Gov. Bob Riley and State Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton.
I recently had the opportunity to travel for the fourth time as a People to People citizen ambassador. This time our destination was South Africa -- a country I had longed to visit – and the experience was more powerful than I could have ever imagined.
If you’re not familiar with People to People (PTP), the program was founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as part of the U.S. Information Agency. The purpose has always been to enhance international understanding and friendship by promoting the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures. It’s important that Eisenhower, one of the great warriors of the 20th century, offered this explanation for his support: "I have long believed, as have many before me, that peaceful relations between nations requires understanding and mutual respect between individuals."
My PTP focus, as you might guess, has been around education. I love the description you’ll find on the Education page at the People to People website. It reads:
Teachers become students as they step into a classroom in a distant land. For education professionals, lifelong learning is the key to excellent teaching ...
Take a minute and look at the photos scrolling at the top of this page. With the exception of the results graphic, all of these pictures feature Alabama students and educators. Spend a little more time looking at the picture of a student reading with a retired educator. There’s a story there.