NY State Education Department Memo: Transition to Common Core Assessments

Recently, on March 6, 2013, the State Education Department sent a memo to school administrators across NY regarding the transition to Common Core assessments.  The memo states,

Despite New York State having some of the most successful individual districts and individual schools in the country, too many of our students do not graduate, and too many of our high school graduates find themselves taking remedial courses when they enter college. These students pay college tuition for learning that should have happened in high school, and students who take remedial courses in college are less likely to finish their studies.”

As a result, the bar has been raised for what students must know and be able to perform upon completing their high school graduation.  Nonetheless, the state claims that student performance has not risen to meet these new and rigorous expectations.  We need more accurate measures of assessment and student progress to better track their performance throughout the year.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed by mapping curriculum starting from college and working backwards all the way to Kindergarten.  Each of these grade levels have benchmarks set forth by the Common Core that each student must master before moving onto the next phase.  Student mastery of these benchmarks must now be assessed.

In addition to higher expectations for students, teachers need to adjust the way material is being taught within the classroom, develop new skills, and more closely and frequently reflect on their own pedagogical skills.   More specifically, in ELA, teachers must balance informational text and literature in addition to increasing the time and attention students spend on analyzing the text they are reading.  In Math, teachers must work to focus less on content and more on fluency of math facts and real world application.  

A question being raised in my mind continuously falls back on the teachers.  What are teachers doing to better engage their students?  If students are engaged in the material, they are more likely to learn.  After spending countless hours in the classroom, I have seen students’ eyes glaze over from boring teacher delivery of content.  Although teachers cannot be held solely accountable for student performance, I feel that more rigorous assessment of teaching skills is absolutely mandatory as part of this new shift.  I am happy to see that the expectations are being raised for teachers as well as students. 

A successful classroom lesson should clearly state the learning objectives so that students understand what they are going to be learning for that period and the measurable expectations of how they will be assessed.   A lesson should also incorporate guided instruction from the teacher, independent practice, peer involvement, as well as student discovery.  Providing opportunity for students to work directly with the material allows them to discover mistakes being made.  Students are more likely to retain information if they are the ones directly involved in the learning process.  I love the idea of students correcting their own mistakes and applying these lessons to real-world applications.   Lessons should always have a closure and an assessment of learning so teachers can better assess student progress.

For more information on the Transition to Common core Assessments click here.

Ms. Vince

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