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Ideas for Mass CCLS Alignment

Hi everyone! Hope you've all been having terrific holidays. In this, the second to last day (boooo) of my Christmas Vacation, I wanted to talk for a minute about an idea I was discussing over the break with a former teacher/mentor: namely, curricular alignment with Common Core Learning Standards.

My mentor--who was actually taught me for my bat-mitzvah a number of years ago (a number which will remain secret)--teaches AP history. I, of course, teach English. We were discussing the pros and cons of the CCLS standards as they inform our lesson planning, and we talked about remaking our unit plans in order to fit with the CCLS vertical objectives ("9th graders must have X skills; 10th graders must have Y skills; 11th graders..."). We both were writing unit maps to be used by future teachers in our school, and I wondered if that type of thing--having teachers write CCLS unit maps for each other--could be replicated on the national level instead of just in-schools.

The way I see it, this would be pretty simple: The Department of Education would hire a cohort of teachers, perhaps ones whose unit maps had been especially successful, and put them to work on a salary basis--maybe for the summer months, or maybe pulling them out of the classroom for a few months. For these teachers, writing detailed unit plans would be, for a while, a full-time job (rather than something teachers had to do at home, after teaching a full day.) They would be responsible for writing entire CCLS unit plans--not just the "maps" (outlines)--including day-to-day warm-ups, activities, questions, and summative assessments, which could then be stored in a national database.

For high school English, for instance, I could imagine a database with downloadable unit plans (ENTIRE UNITS!) for, say, 200 different books commonly read in the English curriculum. Teachers would then have the option of going online and downloading the ones they wanted to use in their classrooms. If they wanted to follow the unit plans to a T, great. If they wanted to augment them with their own best practices, also great. The point would be that top-notch curricula would be available to everyone, thus standardizing instruction, aligning with the CCLS, and relieving some of the burden of planning, particularly for new teachers. It seems like it would be an easy way to facilitate optimal classroom instruction.

My mentor thought this idea had potential--he was, as I said, writing a history unit for his school at the time--but said he was concerned that, the minute teachers were being pulled out of the classroom, they would lose touch with what "worked" in teaching. I suppose a way around that would be to keep rotating the group of teachers who do this type of national curriculum writing, such that these teachers are never out of the classroom for too long. It would take some time to build up a database of the size I'm envisioning, but I think it would be a worthwhile project to undertake.

So that's an idea. Commenters, feel free to agree, disagree, or offer other ideas. Happy New Year, everyone!

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The opinions expressed in View From the Bronx: An Urban Teacher's Perspective are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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