A Common Core Pathway
As you may know, this May we re-launched Advancement Courses with a new look and new courses, including our first set of courses available both online and in print-based format. These new courses focus primarily on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an area of importance for many teachers, students, and families around the country. The main purpose of our new suite of CCSS courses is to provide clear information on how and why the CCSS were developed, what the shifts mean for the classroom, how to support student learning with effective strategies, and ways to communicate with parents the purpose and importance of CCSS. We offer CCSS courses in the primary subjects (Math, ELA, Discipline Literacy), courses aimed at special populations (English language learners and special needs), and a course designed to help teachers educate and empower parents in the implementation of the CCSS.
A little background, the CCSS initiative was launched in 2009 and is the largest policy change in education since No Child Left Behind in 2001, which has brought with it a unique set of challenges. The main aim of the CCSS is to set clear expectations for all students in states that adopt the Standards with the ultimate goal of ensuring students are college and career ready when they graduate high school. This shift in focus has led to major pedagogical changes that have frequently been misunderstood by families, educators, and policy makers, including how the standards were developed.
Many people are unaware that the developers of the CCSS spent years analyzing individual state standards, the US education system, as well as educational systems around the world when designing the new Common Core Standards. They considered test results like those from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), in which, out of 34 nations, the United States ranked well below average in math (26th) and science (20th) and just average in reading (17th). What they found was that most of the countries that ranked highest had a set of national standards for education. And not just for reading, math, and science, but also for art, music, technology, and physical education.
Another key factor for the developers of the CCSS was the level of career readiness of recent high school graduates. When looking at a recent survey of CEOs, they specifically noted a lack of skill and discipline in recent college graduates. In another article, a survey of employers revealed that almost half of the respondents felt their new employees lacked crucial skills such as critical thinking and creativity – both essential for workplace success. Finally, in a nation-wide survey of employers, 93% thought that the ability to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is the most important factor for workplace/career success. Furthermore, more than 75% of respondents said that they wanted new employees to have more experience in five key areas, including: critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings .
That’s where our courses come in. We’ve created a Common Core course pathway for each educator to follow. Each course is designed to guide you, the teacher, through the Common Core so that you will gain the skills, knowledge, and practices needed to be successful, no matter what grade or subject you teach – whether you’re working with English language learners, students in special education, trying to maneuver the Mathematical Practices, or shifting from reading fiction to reading non-fiction in your classroom. They provide a deeper look at the creation, purpose, and structure of the CCSS as well as strategies and best practices for immediate implementation in the classroom.
Our belief is that a well-trained teacher does more than teach. Teachers empower students. Understanding the instructional shifts associated with the Common Core State Standards, the foundations of the Standards, and how they build student success over time are essential. By being informed, teachers are better able to transform their practice, classroom, and our children.
We know that implementing the instructional shifts of the CCSS will be challenging, and take time and effort, but we sincerely hope that our courses will ease the way and provide you with the strategies to build an effective CCSS classroom.
In 2013, Next Generation Science Standards were created and launched by a separate group of educational leaders, including: the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve. These standards have not been as readily adopted and have spurred their own controversy, which we will address in a future blog post.