Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Common Core Response: Panic?

Last fall, when I heard about my state's adoption of the Common Core State Standards, my response was panic. But it wasn't the "Oh no, we have new standards" kind of panic. It was the "Oh no, we're gonna have a new assessment" kind of panic. Yes, it is true. I suffer from a fear of high stakes testing.

I set out to learn as much as possible about the new standards. I attended a couple of webinars, I enrolled in an online class, and I attended a two-day conference. I spent a lot of time during the month of June reading documents, writing papers, and participating in discussions. I felt like I was learning quite a bit, and I resolved to blog my thoughts.

Each time that I sat down to write about CCSS, I had nothing to write. I was completely blank. Weird. But I did notice that the panic was gone, so that is a good thing. The best I can do now is a bulleted list of random thoughts . . . which seem to have led me away from the panic I was feeling:

1.  The CCSS are not just about WHAT we teach, but also about HOW we teach. There are now 8 practice standards to guide our teaching methods. Students need to learn how to think, not just follow a set of steps. That is something I need to work on anyway.

2.  The new standards are more rigorous and more complete than our retired standards. In Kansas, our standards only went through the 10th grade. We've only been testing a limited number of these standards. A more rigorous update was needed, no question.

3.  The thing we want to know about the most (assessment!) is the thing about which we know the least. There are two companies working on the new assessment, and it is in the early stages of development.

4.  We most likely have 3 - 4 years before the new assessment rolls in.

5.  I know I am going to need to do some things differently, but three years is a relatively long time to make the necessary adjustments. I am going to make a list of things to change, and a time line for myself. One. Step. At. A. Time.

6.  I want to believe that if I work towards helping students be better thinkers, and make sure that the standards are included in my curriculum . . . if I focus on good teaching vs. state assessment preparing . . . that everything will be fine . . .

7.  I believe that this is a positive change, even though the transition will have its challenges.

8.  Panic isn't going to help.