Tag Archive | "Common Core"

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State Selects ‘Dream Team’ for Common Core Program

HARTFORD — In an effort to help implement the state’s Common Core State Standards, the State Department of Education on Tuesday announced that 97 teachers from 86 schools across Connecticut will participate in its TeachFest Connecticut, an intensive professional learning session on the new educational standards for schools.

In this program, teachers are expected to develop high-quality resources to be shared with fellow teachers.  This so-called  ‘Connecticut Dream Team’ will also continue working with their peers in the weeks following TeachFest and later serve as teacher leaders at a larger event this summer, state officials said..

Participants teach a wide spectrum of different grade levels, with 60 specializing in English language arts and 37 in mathematics.

 TeachFest Connecticut represents one of the professional development opportunities supported by the State Department of Education regarding the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

The Connecticut Dream Team will first convene in Hartford from April 25-27 for TeachFest Connecticut, a celebration of teaching and an intensive, structured working session facilitated by LearnZillion. A provider of digital curriculum and professional development for the Common Core, LearnZillion developed this innovative model.

A complete list of teachers named to the Connecticut Dream Team may be found here.



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Will New Teaching Standards Lift Achievement Levels for Minorities?

New America Media, Question & Answer By George White

Ed. Note: To date,  45 states this year are beginning to implement the new Common Core States Standards for instruction of English-language arts and math. The new standards are designed to revamp the way schools instruct and assess their students, placing greater emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving. Many wonder if school districts and teachers are prepared to create lesson plans for these more rigorous standards. There is also a debate over whether the new teaching standards will lift or lower achievement levels at schools in low-income communities of color. Teacher preparedness and black student achievement were subjects that Lisa Delpit, a professor at Southern University and A&M College, explored in her best-selling 2006 book Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. In her 2013 book “Multiplication is for White People,” a title based on a comment by a black child, Delpit discusses the need for instruction that engages students and promotes critical thinking and high expectations – curricula with more studies related to Africa and African Americans among them. Delpit says that objective can be reached under Common Core and that the new standards can benefit black students – but only if teachers are given the training and freedom to address the needs of underperforming students. Delpit, who has helped organize independent assessments of education needs in New Orleans, spoke with NAM’s George White.

You’ve talked about the need for better professional development for public school teachers. Generally speaking, why is there a need for training?

Everyone needs better professional development. In schools, training is often hit and run. Someone gives a presentation and there’s no follow-up.

Please comment on the teacher preparedness requirements necessary to address the needs of students in schools in poorer black communities in New Orleans and nationwide.

Teachers in low-income communities of color need to learn to recognize that these students are inherently brilliant. They need to learn how to build relationships with these students and they need to know the local culture – particularly in New Orleans.

Also, teachers in New Orleans need to understand the lingering effects of trauma from Hurricane Katrina. If a student doesn’t suffer trauma, the parents may be traumatized or some of the student’s classmates may have trauma.

In addition, some teachers need to learn how to improve their reading instruction. Generally, teachers are prepared to teach reading in the lower grades but many teachers need to be more prepared to teach reading in the higher grades because many students are behind and need additional instruction.

The Louisiana Department of Education decided not to create a centralized Common Core curriculum for the state’s school districts. This means that school districts and/or teachers will have to create their own Common Core lesson plans. What are the ramifications, opportunities and/or dangers as it relates to teacher preparedness under these circumstances?

Teachers don’t have enough time prepare curricula for the new standards. To prepare for this, teachers should have been paid to work summer [2013] months to learn how to unpack and present each standard in the classroom. That hasn’t been done in Louisiana.

Initially, there were expectations that, under Common Core, teachers would develop approaches to teaching the new standards and post that information on websites and share best practices. That hasn’t happened because everything has been rushed. There was a potential benefit of teacher collaboration; but that has not happened.

As you see them, what are some of the specific examples of the challenges facing teachers regarding the implementation of Common Core – nationally and locally?

The student assessment tests [based on Common Core] haven’t been created yet and those test scores will determine whether teachers will keep their jobs locally and nationally. Without information on testing, teachers don’t know how they will be evaluated – and that’s a problem.

Under initial proposals for Common Core, the new standards were to be introduced only to Kindergarten and First Grade students and the standards would have continued to apply only to those students. However, the decision was made to apply the standards in classrooms for all grades. Older students will have difficulty because they haven’t learned the new standard’s expectations. This will, for example, create a real challenge for those having difficulty with math. We need plans to help students who are behind academically.

Charter schools are a very large percentage of the New Orleans public school district. They have more freedom in staffing and curriculum development. What are your hopes and fears regarding charter school transition to Common Core?

I’m assuming they are taking a look at the new standards. The problem is that there is no central authority regulating charter schools. We don’t know how they will adapt generally because some charter organizations have one school and others operate a group of schools.

You’ve said new standards won’t matter unless teachers build relationships with students. Should there be training in culturally responsive teaching along with Common Core training?

Yes. However, the culturally sensitive training needs to be imbedded in the Common Core training. Under Common Core, teachers have more flexibility in what texts they use and what writing assignments they give. If teachers provide more culturally relevant instruction in the classroom, that will help them build closer relationships with students. That’s important because students don’t just learn from a teacher, they learn for a teacher.

You’ve been critical of the New Orleans’ school district’s heavy reliance on Teach for America (TFA), saying that the corps of teachers are young, inexperienced and that many don’t stay in the profession. TFA says it’s providing some Common Core training. Generally, do you think there will be any difference in how well TFA-placed teachers adapt to Common Core? 

My experience is that younger teachers will have an easier time adopting the new standards because they are not as wedded to previous standards or they do not have anything to compare to Common Core. They may understand it but I don’t know how well they will teach under the new standards.

The problem is that many don’t appreciate the teacher-student relationship component and many don’t understand the community engagement component. Some are successful and remain in teaching. However, many who are successful leave the profession and those who are not successful early on also leave. I’d like to see it reorganized so that applicants can’t into take part in TFA programs unless they make a commitment to stay in the profession.

Can Common Core help students of color from low-income communities close the achievement gap? If so, how can school districts prepare to make it so?

I think the new standards can be an improvement for low-income students because many have been given boring didactic instruction and have been asked to learn by rote. However, the problem is that many students are behind academically.

Many teachers complain they are having trouble getting some students to read one text. Under Common Core, teachers will be assigning more texts and some teachers fear students will give up. If you don’t use texts that are based on students’ academic levels, you can’t expand their capacity to learn and that means there will an increase in the achievement gap. If teachers, university professors and education researchers develop plans to help those who have fallen behind, they can help prepare more African-Americans for college-level studies. Standards are important but curriculum is the key.

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Q&A: Common Core a ‘Response’ to Growing Classroom Diversity

New America Media, Question & Answer By George White
Editor’s Note:  Connecticut, like Georgia and 43 other states,  will begin or has begun implementing the new Common Core State Standards for English-language arts and math. The new standards are designed to revamp the way schools instruct and assess students, placing greater emphasis on critical thinking, analysis, real-world applications and problem solving. There are questions, however, about whether the new standards will help close or widen the achievement gap for African American children. Connecticut could learn from Georgia State University professor Julie Washington,  a leading expert on black student literacy and serves on a Common Core advisory panel for Scholastic Inc., which produces  books for school districts. She says the new standards are a reflection of the country’s growing diversity, and that they will help raise expectations for all students. She spoke with NAM’s George White.What is Common Core and what should the black community know about these new standards?Common Core is a set of a teaching standards agreed to by most states. Some states need Common Core because they don’t have statewide standards. Georgia has statewide standards but we all want to see improvement in academic outcomes in our state and Common Core will help us achieve that because the Common Core curricula are rigorous and the classroom expectations are high.

In many ways, Common Core is a response to the increasing diversity in the country. Students are bringing a lot of different cultural experiences and differences to the classroom. The new standards – if they are adhered to – should benefit African-American children and all other students because classroom expectations will be raised and more transparent.

Why were the standards adopted? 

Common Core is being adopted because there is so much [state-to-state] variation in student performance, in teaching quality and in academic outcomes. Some of the disparities are related to teaching quality and some are related to curriculum content and different academic expectations.

Common Core is important for Georgia because the state has consistently ranked among the bottom ten states in academic performance. Georgia can be better than that! We want to be certain that when a child is educated in Georgia and moves away, parents will find that our curricular content and expectations are consistent with their new home state.

What will the changes in English language arts instruction mean for black student performance? 

The greatest disparity between white and black students has been in classes that rely on reading ability. There is a real learning curve because many low-income African-American students speak a cultural dialect that has features that differ from those that the school expects. The situation is similar to students who are learning English as a second language. This is not true for all African-American students but for those from impoverished backgrounds, this is often a concern.

In reading, 84 percent of African-American kids are at a basic level or below, and only 16 percent are proficient. Common Core will help address this problem because some of the language differences – for example, subject-verb agreement – are addressed in the standards. This is important because if a student uses a dialect and doesn’t learn to switch to the linguistic code of the classroom by the end of first grade, reading growth slows down. Students who make the shift from community language to standard English by second grade can usually keep pace.

How is this connected to your work with the Learning Disabilities Innovation Research Hub?

My colleagues (Dr. Mark Seidenberg from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Dr. Nicole Patton-Terry from Georgia State University) and I entered a 2012 competition for a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Our proposal focused on African-American kids and learning disabilities. African American children are overrepresented in special education generally, but have been underrepresented as recipients of learning disability assistance, because if your reading problem is believed to be based on linguistic difference, cultural difference or poverty, you don’t qualify as learning disabled.

Our goal is to figure out which students are doing well, which students have true learning disabilities and which students have reading problems due to issues related to poverty. Working in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, we are involved in five elementary schools, where we are testing the reading, writing, language and cognitive skills of 750 students. The parents of these students agreed to the testing. When the testing studies are done, the next step is intervention to address the disabilities.

We have about 50 Georgia State students who are involved with the testing and also serve as volunteers who provide classroom assistance requested by teachers. For example, the volunteers might read to students or provide tutoring at a teachers’ request.

What are your thoughts on the parental factor in black academic achievement? 

Parental involvement has a demonstrated impact on academic achievement. Parents need to be informed about these new standards. I don’t know that the burden of parent involvement is any greater under Common Core because parental involvement is always important.

It’s about shared expectations. It’s important for parents to understand their school’s academic expectations so that they can support those standards at home. Often, low-income African-American parents don’t understand their power to insist on quality of education. Parents need to make their high expectations known to the school.

How do you respond to those who say Common Core is an example of government overreach in standardizing education? 

I think they are not fully informed. The federal government had nothing to do with this. Common Core is a states initiative coordinated by governors and the heads of state education departments. In this partisan environment, there are some who believe that everything that comes from Washington is bad. But this has nothing to do with federal government.

Overall, will the implementation of Common Core help close the achievement gap?

Theoretically, if we have high standards for everyone and adequate professional development for teachers, I believe Common Core will contribute to narrowing the achievement gap; but it will not eliminate it. It is not realistic to expect the Common Core to close a gap that is present at the time that kids enter schools.


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