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Creating Real Change in the Classroom

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The following post is from Robyn Oatley, a career educator and Project Manager for theReadyKentucky initiative at the Prichard Committee.

In Kentucky, as in 45 other states, we have been working hard to implement the Common Core State Standards ( KY Core Academic Standards). Everyone in education has been working hard but most importantly, our teachers have been working hard. But, are we working differently?

So there is no confusion, I believe wholeheartedly in the common core as a strong step to college and career readiness for all graduates, as the minimum standard for every student, not the maximum that schools offer for those desiring even more challenging content. But, as rigorous as we make the standards, until we have accurately aligned our Curriculum, Instruction and Assessments (CIA) true change will not occur.

We can change the standards. We can change the name of the standards. We can change the grade level for the standards. But, until we change what is happening in the classrooms there will be little increased student achievement. What we teach and when, what materials, books, and technology teachers use, the strategies the educators use to reach all students and any assessments must be tied tightly to the achievement needs of each student driving to mastery of the standards.

Upon examination of the latest data on the second round of common core state assessments in Kentucky, one will see some growth in various subjects and flat scores in several areas. Any increase in student achievement is exciting, but noting such slow growth begs the question: Has anything else changed in the classrooms of our state except the wording of the standards?

When you walk into a classroom with the new standards implemented, does it look any different than before? Ask yourself:

  • Is there more critical thinking going on?

· Is there more reading tied directly to writing going on?

· Are students reading passages for deep meaning and then using the text for evidence in their thinking?

· Are the students actively engaged in the learning, discussing their thinking with each other?

· In mathematics, are you seeing students work to solve problems, even if it requires a bit of 'productive struggle' on their own or with a group before the teacher jumps in with the answer?

· In subjects other than Language Arts and Math, are students using a variety of informational text to support their own learning?

· Are they reading how or what a scientist reads, what a sociologist might read, what a musician might read or write to support their occupations?

This kind of change takes time, planning, professional development, and collaboration between teachers, schools, and districts across our states. One terrific thing about common core state standards is we can now do this collaboration and sharing between states!

Since 1990 and the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA), Kentucky has had standards and high-stakes assessments. So, having standards and assessments does not represent a major culture change for us. The difference between implementing the standards in 1990 and now is KERA came with major financing of the new initiatives. To get the change we all want to see several things must be done. States must allocate the funds to:

1. Provide professional development time for developing strong curriculum to support the standards,

2. Provide funds for technology, textbooks and materials to implement the curriculum to meet the new standards,

3. Provide professional development time for teachers to learn and collaborate on the instructional strategies necessary to get each child college and career ready,

4. Provide time for educators to review and reflect on the successes of specific lessons with other colleagues,

5. Provide the professional development time necessary to develop common assessments and formative assessments to accurately and incrementally measure instructional success with each student,

6. Provide the time and research necessary to make sure our state assessments are truly measuring what we expect students to learn and be proactive enough to make a change if adjustment proves worthy.

In order to assure we are supporting the standards with change in the classroom that increases student achievement, professionals must have the expertise, the funding and the time to align their Curriculum, Instruction and Assessments. Our kids can't wait!

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