Let's Talk Standards

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Pat Fitzsimmons Susan Zeineth-Collins is a Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology educator at Montgomery Elementary School. She has taught middle level students at Montgomery since 1994, and has been the school tech coordinator since 2007. Sue was named the 2013 Vermont Teacher of the Year Finalist. She has been integrating the Common Core in her classroom for two years, and has been an active member of the FNESU 6-8 Common Core Literacy Academy for the past year.

Lately, I have begun to notice an onslaught of negative press about the Common Core and what it means for students and teachers. My first inclination is not to dismiss them but rather figure out where they are coming from. I am one who looks at arguments, and I weigh the points and evidence people offer. I look at how people come to their decisions, and especially why they came to the conclusions they did. Well, folks, so does the Common Core.

The Common Core goes beyond the what (simple facts), and focuses on the how and the why. What a novel or piece of informational text is saying outright is valuable, but figuring out deeper meanings, themes, central ideas, connections, and developments gives a reader the whole picture, and a much clearer understanding of the piece. The same is true of informative and argumentative pieces of writing, if the facts are all in place, but there are no explanations, what is the value? The writing is simply a list of facts that is not very effective. The push in math is much the same - finding an answer is wonderful, but the inability to see errors in reasoning and to explain a thought process leaves a student without useful tools in ensuring a right answer, as well as hindering the ability to fix future more difficult problems.

The premise behind the Common Core is one of deeper meaning, understanding, and explanation. Those students who practice: close reading, making claims and providing evidence, and looking at their work, while explaining their thought processes and misconceptions, will be the students who ultimately are more prepared to enter 21st Century colleges and workplaces. We can no longer be content with finding a one word answer or rote reading answers, writing one-dimensional research reports, or only providing the “right” answers for math problems. Our students need to understand at a much deeper level to succeed, and they deserve standards that ensure they are taught to do so.

Page Last Updated on December 4, 2014