Monte Cristo Elementary (Granite Falls, Wash.)
Having been an educator for 30 years now, I have seen many different curricula, teaching styles, and testing that claim to be the “ideal” way to instruct and assess students. Unfortunately, over the past 20 years, these ever-changing standards have only created more gaps in education.
I must admit that when I first heard about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I again couldn’t help but believe this was another “fad” that would soon fade away to make room for another. Fortunately, I now feel that I may have been very wrong. The Common Core State Standards are just that: standards that reach across each district and state. They are guiding standards that have a depth and breadth to them I have never experienced before in public education.
Common Core goes deeper into fewer topics and focuses on developing students’ deeper understanding of key concepts. The standards build on one another, allowing my students to apply the skills and knowledge they learned in the previous grades to real-life situations.
With the Common Core State Standards, math instruction is balanced throughout a child’s education. There is a link across grades to major topics. The CCSS increases the rigor, fluency, and application at a much higher level. My students need these critical skills to help them compete in the global economy and be competitive in the job market.
In English Language Arts/Literacy, there are 3 major shifts. The first is building knowledge using content rich non-fiction outside of the language arts curriculum with a balance of fictional reading/writing. The second shift is to reading, writing, and speaking that is grounded in evidence from text (again both literary and informational). The third shift is adding regular practice with complex text and its academic language. From these shifts, my students will be better able to analyze information, support their opinions in writing and spoken language.
As an experienced elementary school teacher leader, I know that the Common Core State Standards will help educators make better curriculum choices for our students. We are finally raising the level of learning expectations for all students so that we are better able to match the learning standards of top-performing nations.
Yes, I can say that I have worked through an untold number of changes in curriculum and standards over my many years teaching. However, to finally have higher common standards for my students invigorates me to work even harder. It is a change that finally makes sense. I have been there and done that. That is why I know that the Common Core will create the changes we desperately need in education.
Debra Howell is a multi-age teacher at Monte Cristo Elementary School in Granite Falls, Wash.