The implementation of the Common Core has left a lot to be desired, but it’s heartening to see that some teachers have embraced what the Common Core attempts to accomplish. I saw the following first-person person referenced in the Washington Post; the original post can be found at http://www.youngedprofessionals.org/1/post/2014/03/is-the-common-core-working-in-the-classroom.html.
The Common Core State Standards are a reality now for teachers in Maryland and DC, while Virginia is one of six states to omit the standards from their state education approach. YEP-DC asked local educators how the Common Core is playing out in their classroom. Are the standards increasing student understanding or presenting obstacles? What’s changed in pedagogical approach, and how are students are reacting to the shift?
Meredith Rosenberg, fourth-grade teacher
Compare 1/4 and 5/6. This seemingly simple problem is a no-brainer for adults. We know right away that 5/6 is greater than 1/4. But where do you begin with a student who has no conceptual understanding of what a fraction is?
One of the most defining features of the Common Core is how it introduces concepts to students through different modes of comprehension. By the end of a six-week Common Core unit on fractions, my students were talking about, writing about, drawing, and playing with fractions. When they encountered the above problem on a quiz, some students drew a picture, while others found common denominators. A few used a strategy called common numerators, which requires a deep understanding of the denominator of a fraction. One student drew the fractions on a number line. The takeaway: The students in my class were able to compare these fractions in no fewer than five different ways.
The Common Core implementation is not without its challenges. Many standards are vague, and there are only small bits of information coming from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness in College and Career (PARCC) on how they are to be tested. The inconsistency with which the standards have been implemented result in the need for highly differentiated classrooms. For example, some of my students came into fourth grade with a solid conceptual understanding of fractions, while others from other schools had no idea what a fraction meant.
However, my school has prioritized Common Core implementation and tackled its challenges with consistent professional development, regular refinement of unit plans, daily lessons and assessments, and an intense focus on the Standards for Mathematical Practice. As a result, my students are thinking critically about numbers every day, and they are becoming accustomed to attacking problems with multiple strategies and assessing the validity of those strategies. The Common Core standards choose depth over breadth, and with appropriate teacher development and support, this leads to much more critical thinking and analysis in the classroom.