Core of the Matter: Getting to the Core of the Matter: For Many Schools and Districts, It’s Through RTI (#CoreMatters)

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February 03, 2015 02:45 pm


Anyone who has absorbed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) knows that their full implementation will require a transformation of teaching and learning. The better one knows the standards or the more one has talked with teachers whose practice has been fundamentally changed by them, the more one appreciates the magnitude of the shift in instruction they require—a shift that calls for a greater depth of learning by students and their ability to find and evaluate information, communicate well in multiple forms, work in groups and solve real-world problems.

While this shift will be felt by all students, those who likely will feel it the strongest are those who have had the least exposure to high expectations, grade level content and challenging assignments.  We know that many of these traditionally underserved students are low income students and students of color.

This year, it is predicted that for the first time, a majority of public school students will be students of color. Last week, the Southern Education Foundation announced that a majority of students attending public schools in the United States are for the first time low income. These two demographic realities combined with an appreciation for the depth of learning that the common core state standards requires raises a question central to the future of our nation:  How can schools best support traditionally underserved students to ensure that they master the core academic content and develop deeper learning competencies?   

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Common Core Equity Series

Common Core and Curriculum Controversies

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October 24, 2013 12:14 pm

On October 23, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute held an event on “Common Core & Curriculum Controversies.” The first two sections focused on math and English language arts issues and featured Jason Zimba, co-founder of Student Achievement Partners, and Tim Shanahan, Professor Emeritus at University of Illinois at Chicago, respectively. But the show-stealer of the event was the excellent panel of five teachers. I left more excited than I’ve been yet about the promise of common core to improve teaching and learning in this country for all kids, especially those who have historically been underserved.

One of the things the event re-focused me on is the promise that with this narrower, more focused core, remediation, particularly in math, should be a more straightforward matter.  Two of the teachers talked about the double blocks they offered so that students could take the higher level class at full strength and have time to get additional instruction around knowledge and skills that had not been previously gained.

Lane Walker from Francis Howell High School in St. Charles, Missouri, reported that she was using the lower level standards to build logic-based understanding of topics like fractions during this remedial time and that as a result, she was able to give her remediation students harder problems related to fractions than students taking only the higher level class.  She called the remediation class a “success class.” Cicely Woodard, who teaches at Rose Park Math and Science Middle School in Nashville, said that she absolutely believes and is seeing secondary students who have been way behind academically succeed under common core with this extra support.

There was also some discussion about preservice training. The teachers on the panel noted that some veteran teachers are having a harder time shifting while some student teachers have been well prepared in their programs for these shifts. Given the fact that so many novice teachers are placed in classrooms with historically underserved students, this could be a real opportunity in some respects if changes can be made in preservice preparation.

Video from the event is embedded below. I highly encourage people to watch the full event, and especially the teacher panel, which begins two hours into the event and runs about an hour.