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Common Core: What's Ahead for Teachers

Todd Rackowitz
I'm not shy about it. I have a lot of hope for the Common Core Standards. They ask students to think critically, solve problems, and communicate effectively—and they've already inspired me to change how I teach mathematics.

As part of the Implementing Common Core Standards project, I've been test-driving Common Core-aligned curriculum and assessments this year—so I have a good sense of what's ahead for my students and me.

Student-Centered, Task-Oriented Classroom

I confess that I enjoy traditional teaching: being at the interactive whiteboard and lecturing about the topic, explaining the vocabulary, and modeling the problems. And that kind of whole-class instruction will still be necessary to teach students the basics and vocabulary.

But the common standards are inspiring me to alter my routine. My students will be more responsible for their own learning. They will often work in pairs or groups, performing tasks that require them to explore the topic more in depth. I will encourage them to explore many ways to solve a problem before I assist their group.

I will spend less time in front of the room, and more time moving among the groups, helping them move forward when they get stuck. I'll use high-quality tasks that encourage students to dig into each topic more deeply—and formative assessments that focus my attention on students' growth.

High-Quality Resources

Of course, developing this new student-centered classroom will call for big changes in planning. I am going to have to find, create, and test resources that align with the standards I am teaching.

I've already found some great, ready-to-use lessons through the Math Design Collaborative. Many other sites and publications offer Common Core material to explore. And there is much more to be done, which brings to me to the next thing that excites me ...

Collaborating with Educators Nationally

With all but four states adopting the Common Core, just think of the number of teachers that will be on the same page. I look forward to collaborating with other educators on a national level through Twitter (@TRackowitz), virtual communities, webinars, internet publications, blogs, and other sources. (Have you checked out #commoncore on Twitter yet?)

We will be able to share ideas, resources, concerns, successes and failures, so that others can learn and benefit from our discoveries. Collaboration and discussion on such a large scale can have a major impact on today's educational system. And that can only be good for my students.

For the record, I do have a concern about the Common Core: Is it possible to design a standardized test that measures the skills promoted by these standards? More on this in my next post ...

Todd Rackowitz has been teaching math for 19 years in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, and for the past 11 years at Independence High School. A National Board Certified Teacher since 2001, Todd is a member of his district's mathematics leadership team as well as the Center for Teaching Quality's Implementing Common Core Standards team.

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