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Using Common Core Standards to Enhance Classroom Instruction & Assessment

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Discover how to weave an in-depth understanding of the Common Core into successful classroom practice with this two-part resource. You’ll learn how to power the standards with guided assessment and measure student progress in a way that accurately reflects learning. Included are hundreds of ready-to-use, research-based proficiency scales for both English language arts and mathematics.

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Introduction: The History of Standards-Based Education in the United States

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The discussion of standards is not new. As explained by Robert Marzano and Mark Haystead (2008), awareness of the need for national standards in the United States dates back to 1989, when President George H. W. Bush met with governors at an Education Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia. The group adopted six education goals for the nation, one of which was that “all children will leave grades four, eight, and twelve having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter” (Rothman, 2011, p. 30). Two groups were subsequently formed to facilitate the implementation of these goals: the National Education Goals Panel and the National Council on Education Standards and Testing.

Recognizing that the federal government did not have the expertise internally to identify what students needed to know and be able to do in each content area, the Bush administration issued grants to subject-matter organizations to develop standards in their content areas. The first organization to develop standards was the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), whose standards identified “what it means to be mathematically literate . . . in a world where mathematics is rapidly growing and is extensively being applied to diverse fields” (NCTM, 1989, p. 1). In 1989 (six months before President Bush’s Education Summit), NCTM published Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, which specified the math knowledge and skills that students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. According to Robert Rothman (2011):

 

1 Understanding the Common Core State Standards

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As the authors of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts and mathematics sought to define what students needed to know and be able to do in the 21st century, they found themselves confronted with two broad categories of knowledge and skills. One of these categories (which we label content standards) involves relatively concrete knowledge and skills, such as “ask and answer questions about key details in a text” (NGA & CCSSO, 2010a, p. 11) or “solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20” (NGA & CCSSO, 2010d, p. 15). The other category (which we label practice standards) involves relatively abstract skills, such as “students are engaged and open-minded—but discerning—readers and listeners” (NGA & CCSSO, 2010a, p. 7) or “students try to communicate precisely to others” (NGA & CCSSO, 2010d, p. 7). To their credit, the authors of the CCSS included both categories of knowledge and skills in their set of standards.

 

2 Teaching the Common Core State Standards

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As seen in chapter 1, the ELA and mathematics CCSS can be divided into practice and content standards. In ELA, the practice standards are embedded in the introduction to the standards (on page 7 of the ELA standards document) and in the CCR anchor standards. The practice standards in mathematics are relatively easy to find because they appear under the heading Standards for Mathematical Practice on pages 6–8 of the mathematics standards document. Here we explain how we analyzed the practice standards in ELA and mathematics to make them immediately useful to classroom teachers.

The authors of the CCSS stated that the purpose of the Standards for Mathematical Practice was to “describe varieties of expertise that . . . educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students” (NGA & CCSSO, 2010d, p. 6). A similar logic guided the design of the college and career readiness skills in the ELA standards. In effect, the authors of the CCSS were attempting to articulate mental processes that could be directly taught to students and then used to apply mathematics and ELA content in meaningful ways.

 

3 Measuring Student Performance on the Common Core State Standards

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Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the CCSS as of the writing of this book. According to Kendall (2011), this widespread adoption means that “the Common Core will dominate dialogue in the United States; the number of states that have signed on represents a critical mass. It will be difficult to work as a teaching professional and be part of the dialogue of education without sharing the context of the Common Core” (p. 55). Most of the teachers in the United States will be expected to ensure that their students are proficient with the CCSS. The transition from previous state standards to the CCSS may not be easy for all teachers. Rothman (2011) predicted that “the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, while hugely significant, pales in scope to what must be done to implement them” (p. 119).

The CCSS describe what students should know or be able to do as a result of instruction in school. As discussed in the introduction, the authors of the CCSS strove to resolve many of the problems with previous standards efforts, including multidimensionality. Each standard in the CCSS was designed to focus on a single dimension of content, rather than combining many dimensions into one standard. Porter, McMaken, Hwang, and Yang (2011b) measured whether or not the CCSS achieved a greater level of focus than previous state standards and found that, when standards from all the states were aggregated into one group of standards, “the aggregated state standards are less focused than is the Common Core” (p. 108). However, when Porter and his colleagues compared the Common Core to sets of standards from individual states, they found that “the Common Core has more focus than some states’ standards and less focus than other states’ standards” (p. 108). Although more research will shed further light on this issue, it seems that the Common Core is generally more focused than most previous sets of standards but could have been even more focused. Because of this, it is important for teachers to “take the time to analyze each standard and identify its essential concepts and skills” (Bell, 2011, p. 113). For example, mathematics standard 4.OA.A.3 says:

 

4 Using the Common Core State Standards for Assessment and Grading

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Identifying specific learning goals from the CCSS, organizing those learning goals into a limited number of measurement topics, and using proficiency scales to articulate different levels of performance for each measurement topic are a teacher’s first steps toward effectively measuring students’ performance on the CCSS. However, high-quality assessments and grading and reporting systems are also necessary to gauge students’ levels of performance and knowledge gain on the CCSS and communicate with students and parents about their progress.

Formal assessments for the CCSS are being produced by the two consortia mentioned in the introduction—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The goals of these formal assessments are to “yield timely data to support and inform instruction, provide accurate information about what students know and can do, and measure achievement against standards that reflect the skills and knowledge required for success in college and the workforce” (K–12 Center at ETS, 2012, p. 15).

 

Proficiency Scales for the ELA Common Core State Standards

ePub

MRL’s scales for the Common Core State Standards were designed to include all of the ELA standards from the CCSS. Here we include several notes about MRL’s scales for the ELA CCSS that may interest teachers and readers.

In some cases, the CCSS present substandards for an overarching standard. For example, the overarching Writing standard W.6.1 has five substandards, labeled using a, b, c, d, and e. In cases like this, MRL used one of two approaches: we either included (1) both the overarching standard and the substandards (if the overarching standard contains additional information) or (2) the substandards but not the overarching standard (if the overarching standard does not contain additional information).

MRL created a single set of Reading measurement topics that includes standards from Reading Literature and Reading Informational Text.

Writing standards 9 and 10 are not included in MRL’s scales because our analysis found them to be more focused on instructional guidance rather than specific ELA content. In other words, Writing standards 9 and 10 give teachers guidance about how to structure lessons and combine content rather than specifying what students should know or be able to do as a result of instruction.

 

Proficiency Scales for the Mathematics Common Core State Standards

ePub

MRL’s scales for the Common Core State Standards were designed to include all of the mathematics standards from the CCSS. Here we include several notes about MRL’s scales for the mathematics CCSS that may interest teachers and readers.

In some cases, the CCSS present substandards for an overarching standard. For example, the overarching Geometry standard 8.G.A.1 has three substandards, labeled using a, b, and c. In cases like this, MRL used one of three approaches. We included (1) both the overarching standard and the substandards (if the overarching standard includes additional information), (2) the substandards but not the overarching standard (if the overarching standard does not include additional information), or (3) the overarching standard but not the substandards (if the substandards were simply examples of the overarching standard).

MRL’s scales for the CCSS include all of the standards without a (+) symbol (with one exception in the high school measurement topic Geometric Trigonometry). This is because the authors of the CCSS stated that “all standards without a (+) symbol should be in the common mathematics curriculum for all college and career ready students” (NGA & CCSSO, 2010d, p. 57).

 



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