Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lucy Calkins - Common Core

On February 11, 2013 eight educators from Chets Creek Elementary School, under the direction of Principal Susan Phillips, traveled to Orlando, Fl for to hear renowned Literacy expert, Lucy Calkins.  These are the compiled notes of those educators.

What are the issues with the Common Core?
  • The problem in American education is poverty.  23% of our children are growing up in poverty which is up from 10% just a few years ago.  We have the largest number of children growing up in poverty of any of the developed countries.  There is the income gap. Standards cannot make up for all that poverty takes away from these children.
  • The estimated cost of implementing the Common Core is $15.7 billion for the beginning phase.  The problem is that half that money is going to developing new assessments and the rest to the new technology needed to give the tests!  Where will the money come from to provide rich libraries and non-fiction books for each classroom? We are being asked to do more with less!
  • The Common Core is not really researched-based.  It is really just a hypothesis.  We really don't  know what the pathway is to achieving the Common Core Standards.
  • The design itself may be flawed.  Working backwards from college readiness may not really provide the best standards for K-1 students.  Also the contrived way that the fiction and non-fiction standards have to mirror each other makes for a few bizarre standards.
  • We have given a small group of businessmen the license to micro manage what is going on in our classrooms.
"Teachers, principals, and schools have a CHOICE: to read the Common Core with criticism, finding all its faults and abandon it altogether, or embrace it as a new path and a new way of looking at what our kids know and how to take their learning to a newer, deeper level."  We are at a crossroads.  We can CHOOSE to see opportunity, possibilities, hope and promise.

We have learned a lot about what NOT to do.
  • Adopting a new core reading program will not solve the problem.  We spent $87 million on new reading core during NCLB, and reading flat lined.  Adopting a basal and trying to teacher-proof learning just shows a lack of confidence in the profession and WON'T work!.
  • Turning down the lights and turning on the music and just letting children write will also not produce results. There has to be quality instruction.
  • Adopting too many innovations with a little bit of this and a little bit of that will not work.  One of our biggest problems is fragmentation, overload. If you have more than 4 or 5 innovations, you will not see gains.  Innovations need to be implemented with 90% fidelity to make a difference.

Why is the Common Core gold?
  • It's a wake up call.  Our kids are going to have to be smarter than we were because knowledge is growing so fast.  85% of the jobs now require high levels of literacy.
  • The Common Core sets the expectation so we know when good is good enough.
  • It's certainly better than NCLB when we reduced reading to five little areas, over emphasizing the part that phonemic awareness plays and barely mentioning comprehension.
  • The implementation of the Common Core calls for a model of continuous improvement.  It calls for collegiality.  It is about helping our schools improve and grow stronger.    Kids need a great school, not just one great teacher.  This has to be K-5 working together on a school-wide approach.  Gone are the days of closing your door and doing what you want. We are now in a time when teachers will have to work together in learning communities in order to lift the level of their practice. Most teachers learn their first three years and then hit a plateau.  We have to break that plateau.
  • There is an emphasis on writing.  Not only are there writing standards, but part of the reading standards are about writing.
  • There is an emphasis on text complexity and moving kids up through levels of more and more difficult text.
The decisions about how to reach the Common Core Standards (the way to go about teaching and achieving these standards) is left in the hands of teachers and principals.  The BEST strategy is still a teacher who can make a difference.

The standards are a covenant between you and the student -  It is a covenant of what you will teach and what your students should be able to do.   Not all students have in their genes to be a good reader.  It is the teacher and her expectations of them as readers that pushes the level of achievement.

About change...
Schools need to be communities of practice.  If you want to change the group, you need to use the group to make the change happen.

About leaders...
A leader is someone who is passionately driven by a cause bigger than themselves.

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