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I recently watched a Tennessee high school senior present to his Board of Education why the common core standards are not appropriate for schooling and it brought up some emotions and thoughts that come from the CORE!  Hopefully this post speaks to many hearts and minds of our educators so that we can continue the journey to prepare every student for THEIR future!

Top 5 ways to ensure common core standards do not get in the way of great learning:

1)   Create engaging, authentic learning experiences. Standards have always been a part of our educational system and they might be a part for many years.  Do we just stop and complain about them?  We can debate whether or not they are needed and spend our energy proving the different viewpoints, but we are wasting energy that can be spent focusing on providing strong learning experiences and environments.  The reality is, the standards are not what holds us back from great learning, it is the way they are implemented and assessed in our schools.  Great teachers use the standards as a backbone and they use them to help provide authentic learning experiences for students.  Great teachers know which standards won’t truly prepare kids for their future, so they don’t spend a great deal of time on them!

2)   Assess differently.  Many teachers, schools, and districts are focusing on the practice standards and the Capacities of Literate Individuals and not breaking the standards down to a point that they are isolated skills learned.  The standards from the common core were NOT designed to be assessed like the items in the old standards.

3)   Focus on the skills and cognitive processes that matter.  Effective learning requires doing something.  Many of the standards require kids to collaborate, think critically, listen objectively, write, read, analyze data and information, create, utilize digital resources, respect different perspectives, critique, and construct viable arguments.  How can we say this is not needed for their future?  Most of us do this on a daily basis in our current jobs!

4)   Focus on relationships. No matter what standards students are expected to learn, a strong relationship with the student is necessary.  Student skill sets, interests and talents must be part of the equation with all learning experiences. Many amazing educators allow students choice about how and what they learn.  This often results in higher engagment and relevant learning.

5)   Focus on DOING, not LEARNING ABOUT.  Implementing the common core to support higher-level learning and skill development will require having students do something with what they know.  I love Tony Wagner’s comment in a recent TED Talk.  He mentioned that “The world doesn’t care about how much you know, they care about what you do with what you know.”

If classrooms choose to have desks in straight rows, the teacher lecturing the majority of the time, textbooks as the main learning resource, and pacing guides to make sure teachers are “covering” the standards…we are OFF track!  That is standardization…students learning the same thing at the same time with the same resource!  CRAZY.  We MUST quit fitting into the system and instead, make the system work for us so that students can be prepared for THEIR future!


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