Thursday, April 05, 2012

Common Core Concerns

I am starting to become concerned about teaching Common Core next year. After having done the Gap Analysis between what I currently teach and what I will be teaching, there is a lot that I haven't taught either in a few years, or ever. It's not that I am concerned about teaching it - I am pretty flexible, content-wise. I am concerned with how my students are going to adjust to the new expectations.

My Advanced Algebra 2 students had a quiz Wednesday. Rather than knockin' it out of the park, there were a lot of ground outs, and some pretty ugly ones too. These are supposed to be the best of my current students and lately, they've been pretty awful with their work ethic and drive.  As we were working through the review colored folders, I could tell that they have not been putting forth the effort to really learn the material until before the test. They were asking questions and as I was listening to their questions, it was apparent to me that it was as if they were learning it for the first time. They did not seem to have much recollection of the lesson and even though they had their (guided) notes they had filled in, it seemed like some of them didn't know how to follow them. How is it that my "brightest" students can't figure it out for themselves?

And as far as my "regular" students - their work ethic isn't stellar either. I've been struggling with getting them to even practice what we're learning as of late. Even though there have been improvements, it still isn't where it needs to be and I'm finding I'm doing a lot of work to set up in class practice.

I understand that there are going to be a lot of changes with Common Core. I am going to be teaching different things and I am going to need to approach it differently. Having said that, I feel rather unprepared for this shift. I get that we will need to incorporate rich problems/tasks into our classes. I am not sure how to go about doing this. Do I just put the rich task in front of them and say "Here it is - have at it?" I'm pretty certain if I do that most of my students will give up within 3 minutes. When do I incorporate these kinds of problems and tasks into my classes?

I am used to teaching the material in a certain unit, preparing some sort of review and then testing them on what they have learned from the unit. From what I can tell, I am still supposed to think of my class as being comprised of units. How does my day-to-day business of teaching change? What is it that I will need to be doing differently? How will my assessments change? Will I be giving projects or tasks instead of traditional end of unit tests? Or will it be a combination of traditional unit tests infused with projects or tasks? How do you really determine if a student knows the material if he or she is working with other students? What about using resources to help them along (notes, the internet, etc.)? I've been mainly of the mindset that students have to be able to recall the information, but in the "real world," they'll use Google and others to help them figure out the solutions to whatever problems their work presents. How does that fit into how I assess? I know I've posed some of these questions before, but I still feel like they, and many more, are unanswered.

I can't say that these changes are necessarily bad. It will certainly step up the rigor and, given time, I think that our students may enter college more prepared than they are now. But there are going to be some growing pains, and I think they will be huge. When we changed currciula in Ohio 10-11 years ago, there was grumbling then that our students weren't going to be ready for the "rigors" of the new curriculum. I think what happened is that most of us continued to teach what we have been teaching and made the indicators fit what we were doing. (For those of you not familiar with our standards - we had indicators at every grade level and there was never any specification what got taught in what course.) Given that we are going to have assessments that reflect the course structure from the Common Core, we won't be able to do that again. We will have to adjust what and how we teach. I am really hoping for some guidance as we shift.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We will all be facing the same questions. I think one way to raise the bar to common core rigor standards is to give the students richer problems, with less emphasis on algorithmic facility and more on critical thinking.
George Cobb, a well known statistics teacher said that we should "judge a book by its exercises and you cannot go far wrong". It's what kind of problems we give that will make or break the common standards.