Understanding by Design® Guide to Creating High Quality Units
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Common Core Standards
Aug 09, 2010
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We need national standards. It makes no sense that a student who moves across the river from Lambertville NJ into New Hope PA is faced with different content requirements parceled out in different years. Nor does it make sense any longer to have 50 states fooling with 50 different reforms and state tests, given the limits on state budgets. And it will make it far easier for textbook companies to provide cheaper textbooks without having to customize dozens of the 'same' textbook for the bigger states (while ignoring the small ones).

So, it is gratifying to see - in these hyper-partisan times - that the tipping point has been reached. Every big state in the country (except Texas) has signed on to the Common Core as of August 1st. We can now all dedicate ourselves to developing resources that can be used nationally to improve achievement and instruction in ELA and math.

HOWEVER....

I remain dissatisfied with the math standards in particular and the Standards movement in general over the past 15 years. Few states or agencies have taken the necessary next step: showing teachers what has to change in instruction and assessment locally if the Standards are to be truly honored. All of us who work in schools see the same thing everywhere: practice relatively unchanged as teachers tick off a Standard here or there - rather than asking the core backward design question: what does this Standard demand of us that forces change?

The greatest weakness in American education is poor local assessment. Most teacher tests are low-level quizzes of discrete knowledge and skill. This is neither good preparation for life nor for standardized tests. As I showed in my article on Stop Bashing the Tests (and as any inspection of released test items and test specs. reveals), all the difficult items on tests involve higher-order thinking, not arcane factoid recall. On almost every question that requires multiple inferences on the students' part only half of American students get the correct answer.

Here's a basic tip, then, in the absence of the states and Feds stating in detail the do's and don't's of local curriculum and assessment. Read each and every standard as having attached to it the following phrase: ON THEIR OWN. Can students, on their own, analyze a text to infer author purpose or meaning when it is unstated? Can students in math, on their own, infer which formula is reqauired and what the steps of the solution need to be without any hints or reminders? Because that's what the Standards demand and what much of the external tests are about.
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Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 found comments.
Posted by: Mike Mitchell
Feb 22, 2011
 
Awesome short, concise, thought!
Posted by: Evan Williams
Apr 05, 2011
 
Your points in the fourth and fifth paragraphs are well taken; however, with high schools students taking standardized tests, I have found that many simply don't care whatsoever whether they do well or not. Their performance on graded classes and on the SAT matters, but AYP? that's not a big deal to many kids. AYP won't get them a job or get them into college, and the school district provides remediation to get them to proficiency in time to walk at graduation.
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