Today I attended a very good professional development provided by Discovery Education – The ELA Common Core Academy. I left the session (another day tomorrow) feeling like I have a greater understanding of the Common Core Standards and the instructional shifts required of our teachers so that our students can meet these new standards.
My most challenging questions of the day occurred when our presenter, Johnna Weller, shared a “portrait of students who meet the Common Core State Standards.” These qualities come straight from the Common Core website. and are worth reading in full.
They demonstrate independence.
Students can, without significant scaffolding, comprehend and evaluate complex texts across a range of types and disciplines, and they can construct effective arguments and convey intricate or multifaceted information. Likewise, students are able independently to discern a speaker’s key points, request clarification, and ask relevant questions. They build on others’ ideas, articulate their own ideas, and confirm they have been understood. Without prompting, they demonstrate command of standard English and acquire and use a wide-ranging vocabulary. More broadly, they become self-directed learners, effectively seeking out and using resources to assist them, including teachers, peers, and print and digital reference materials.
They build strong content knowledge.
Students establish a base of knowledge across a wide range of subject matter by engaging with works of quality and substance. They become proficient in new areas through research and study. They read purposefully and listen attentively to gain both general knowledge and discipline-specific expertise. They refine and share their knowledge through writing and speaking.
They respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline.
Students adapt their communication in relation to audience, task, purpose, and discipline. They set and adjust purpose for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use as warranted by the task. They appreciate nuances, such as how the composition of an audience should affect tone when speaking and how the connotations of words affect meaning. They also know that different disciplines call for different types of evidence (e.g., documentary evidence in history, experimental evidence in science).
They comprehend as well as critique.
Students are engaged and open-minded—but discerning—readers and listeners. They work diligently to understand precisely what an author or speaker is saying, but they also question an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises and assess the veracity of claims and the soundness of reasoning.
They value evidence.
Students cite specific evidence when offering an oral or written interpretation of a text. They use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking, making their reasoning clear to the reader or listener, and they constructively evaluate others’ use of evidence.
They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.
Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.
They come to understand other perspectives and cultures.
Students appreciate that the twenty-first-century classroom and workplace are settings in which people from often widely divergent cultures and who represent diverse experiences and perspectives must learn and work together. Students actively seek to understand other perspectives and cultures through reading and listening, and they are able to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds. They evaluate other points of view critically and constructively. Through reading great classic and contemporary works of literature representative of a variety of periods, cultures, and worldviews, students can vicariously inhabit worlds and have experiences much different than their own.
These are certainly valuable qualities. So my questions….
Do we, as educators (and I’m including leaders and teachers as educators), embody and exude these qualities? Are we self-directed learners? Do we communicate well, in various modes? Are we readers? Are we open-minded? Do we value evidence? Do we use technology effectively?
Speaking generally and as a profession, in my opinion, we as educators do not embrace these qualities to the level we need to if we are going to expect our students to exhibit these qualities. We do not do many of these things very well! And I suppose that is where the leadership challenge lies. How do we develop our teachers and leaders to first embrace the qualities we want to see in our students? Unless we address the challenges with the adults first, we are doomed to failure with our students meeting the expectations of the Common Core.