Last summer, August 2012, I attended a Common Core workshop. Since my focus tends to be literacy, I decided to break away from the norm and attend a math session. The first activity of the workshop required that we break up into groups. In my group of 5, I was the only member with a literacy background. The other 4 members were middle and high school math teachers.
Each group was assigned with a math practice standard. My group was assigned Standard 3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Our task? To analyze it and list the skills demanded by the standard. Given my literacy background, my perspective differed from the rest of the group. Upon reading Standard 3, I immediately began making connections to the ELA/Literacy Standards. Initially, members of the team dismissed my recommendations with some jest making statements such as, “Okay ELA Lady, this is math.”
I continued to build my list of ELA connections as I observed them talk about each sentence in detail. I smiled on the inside upon our presentation to the other groups when the member who called me ELA Lady closed the presentation with, “I was surprised to see how connected to literacy this standard was. We are going to have to collaborate with our ELA peers.” Members from the other groups concurred.
His statement caused me to arrive at a conclusion: until we were required to analyze the standard, they took for granted that it was “just math”–a statement made to me–and overlooked the depth of the standard.
Last year I wrote about the uncommon understandings that were surfacing in my work with educators. Today I write again to say that uncommon understandings about the Common Core still exist.
Last week while listening to someone vent about the standards, she stated, “the Common Core makes teachers teach to the test.” This weekend while supporting another educator, she became fixated on convincing me that Common Core testing had already begun despite the fact that I shared evidence that proved otherwise. Today as I read an article, I was reminded once again about the uncommon understandings as the authors opened with the following:
One of the rumors making the rounds of K-12 educators goes something like this: The Common Core State Standards don’t allow “pre reading”–or for that matter any classroom activities that contextualize a text through outside sources. The interesting part of the rumor isn’t the rumor itself [...]What makes the misunderstanding interesting and vitally relevant to teachers is that it sheds light on some of the practices and underlying assumptions…(Sandler and Hammond, 2012/2013)
Misunderstandings appear to be prevalent.
So here’s my question: what are you doing to ensure a common understanding of the Common Core?
A few weeks ago, through my micro-PD campaign, I tweeted questions to consider about math practice Standard 3.
Today I suggest that you consider a few of the questions to ignite discussions for deeper insight and common understanding among your team or staff about what Mathematically Proficient Students (MPS) should be able to do.
- MPS justify their conclusions. How do your ELA peers help students support their claims? - http://ht.ly/kXlCG
- MPS construct arguments. How is it done in ELA? - http://ht.ly/kXlCA
- What tools can MPS use to distinguish flawed reasoning? - http://ht.ly/kXlCJ
(You can also foster discussions and common understanding through collaborative efforts in deconstructing the core.)
I close with the obvious: unless there is a common understanding of the Common Core, the deep-learning that we seek nationwide will be an uncommon occurrence.
Sandler, S., & Hammond, Z. (2012/2013). Text and truth: Reading, student experience and the Common Core. Kappan, 94(4), 58-61.