Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Common Core and the Fog of Education Policy

Recently, I made a presentation for the Reading Hall of Fame at the Literacy Research Association meetings in San Diego. My basic contention is that policymakers have failed to recognize the magnitude of the changes required by the Common Core State Standards in terms of English language arts instruction. Because of this failure, they are neither moving fast enough or seriously enough to ensure that schools successfully and effectively adopt the standards.

In the past, perhaps, that different states had different educational goals militated against any kind of joint response to students' educational needs. Now, with common standards in place, states could more powerfully pool their talent and resources to enhance their response. The only areas this has been happening so far have been in the writing of the standards themselves and in the development of new tests--both of which were "easy" for the states because these efforts were paid for and orchestrated by someone other than the state departments of education. Now we need this kind of sharing in areas like professional development for teachers and principals, curriculum materials selection, public information, and so on... but nary a joint initiative in sight. Instead, leaders seem foggy about the impending changes or dedicated to business as usual.

If you are interested in this topic, here is the powerpoint:


Anonymous said...

New standards will not change instruction if teachers are not provided with in-depth professional development opportunities. The goals of CCSS are lofty and will remain elusive to teachers and students without proper guidance on how to fully implement them within the classroom. Then the pendulum will swing the other way because these too will fail to achieve the goal of increasing students for college and career readiness.

Anonymous said...

People listen to you. Please keep repeating this message. Providing teachers with standards and resources will not result in improved outcomes unless these are accompanied by PL and coaching on instructional practices.

Tim Shanahan said...

This was emailed to me and I am posting it and will reply to it. Great question,

Hi Dr. Shanahan,
I am an avid follower of your blog and find it to be the most valuable and reliable resource for all things new and old in reading. In no other forum is such expert advice so readily available to me as an everyday teacher - and that you welcome and respond with feedback is astounding considering all that you do. Thank you.

I was hoping you might post in response to the questions below - I know other colleagues who have the same concerns in their own schools.

We are a blue ribbon middle school in NY. We service 65 students in our reading program out of 418 students in our building (15%). We have two reading specialists to serve these students. About half of our students in our program fall below the 25%ile and the other half fall between the 25-50%ile. Do we have too many students? With the Common Core and RTI, we have a lot of teacher/parent pressure to take more and more students into the program. But – because our program is growing - we feel some pressure to release students. We don’t want to release too soon – especially as students are encountering more and more rigorous reading materials in their classes.
1. What percentage of students should be in a reading program? Administrators have asked us why we have so many students. They have suggested that number is too high.
2. What percentile criteria would you recommend for entry and exit into the program? For example, as a general rule, should students be in remedial reading 2-3x/week if they are performing below the average range on a standardized assessment? And should they exit once they reach the average range? (Certainly we consider a variety of other factors including teacher/parent input, report cards, work samples, informal assessment, etc. but we are less sure of the objective criteria.)
3. If we benchmark 3x/year, can we release students once they reach that benchmark – even if it’s after one half year of instruction - or is that too soon? Can students really pick up enough skills in a half a year to make a difference? In other words, should our program be very fluid with students regularly coming and going, or should it be aimed at a longer term, more thorough remediation support model?
Thank you for any suggestions you might provide.