Let's Talk Standards

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Picture of Christina Suarez Valerie Gasco is a special educator at Riverside Middle School in Springfield, Vermont. Valerie teaches reading and math, and has served as a mentor for teachers new to the district. She was named the 2014 Vermont Teacher of the Year Finalist.

It’s our job as educators to develop and use a range of instructional and assessment programs that truly addresses the needs of the students before us in our classrooms every day. The truth is that some kids learn at a very different pace from the norm, and need a mix of general curriculum classes and small group instruction in order to make steady progress in math, reading, and writing skills. Statewide standardized testing measures individual students’ progress as compared with other students in the same grade, which may not be their actual skill level. For example, an 8th grade student whose learning disability places them at a 4th grade reading level is tested with 8th grade level material. The data obtained may provide some useful information for planning further instruction; unfortunately, the experience can also be an uncomfortable message to struggling learners that they don’t “measure up” to their peers.

That being said, the Common Core presents a rigorous set of expectations for our students; holding all of our kids to high standards can yield surprising results. I’ve focused my teaching on building strong literacy skills – deeply studying the meaning and language in our curriculum materials, and practicing the art of expressing ideas and knowledge in writing. As a result, I make it very clear to my students what I’m teaching, why I’m teaching it, and how it connects to what they already know. My lessons are designed to get them to take personal responsibility for their own learning; they are expected to read through the textbook page, look over their notes, or even ask a classmate before asking me for help. When my students present their answers to a problem or question, they know that I’ll be asking for evidence to support their point; they will have to explain their solution with specific detail – it’s about “showing, not telling” what you know. While my students will be taking Smarter Balanced assessments which target skills well above their current performance levels, I believe they will be more confident in their ability to approach the tests with effective reading and problem solving strategies. They may not “measure up” to their same-age peers, but I hope they will strive to measure up to their own high expectations for themselves.

Page Last Updated on December 4, 2014