With the 2013-2014 school year well underway, one area the District is focused on is successfully implementing the National Common Core State Standards. This article is written to give parents and the community greater background in our work. Sources for information in this article include the California Department of Education and the Common Core State Standards Initiative
The National Common Core State Standards are the primary focus in education today. They were written by a range of subject experts and teachers, and informed by research, the learning from states which had implemented standards across the United States, and by standards of education across the world. The work was under the direction of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The purpose of the work was to develop clear, consistent, rigorous, and relevant standards for all students across the United States to ensure that all students are college and career ready for the twenty-first century. This effort grew out of concerns for the persistent achievement gap between groups of students, the growing numbers of students that need to be remediated when entering college, the concerns raised from business that schools were not preparing students for the workforce, and the status of student performance when compared internationally. The National Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
How will Common Core State Standards (CCSS) impact the education of students today? The CCSS not only tell us what students need to know, they also tell us how students need to engage with the content. We want our students to be better readers, thinkers, communicators, problem solvers, and to be prepared to engage in conversation, collaboration and creativity.
In the areas of Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Language students will develop the ability to do such things as evaluate complex text, construct arguments, request clarification, build upon other’s ideas, articulate their own ideas and effectively use resources such as teachers, peers, print and digital materials. Students need to be discerning readers and listeners with the ability to both understand and critique.
In the areas of mathematics, the standards strive to provide more focus and coherency of order. There are eight mathematical practices that call upon our students to have conceptual understanding of key ideas. These eight mathematical practices are: 1) Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them; 2) Reason abstractly and quantitatively; 3) Construct visible arguments and critique the reasoning of others; 4) Model with mathematics; 5) Use appropriate tools strategically; 6) Attend to precision; 7) Look for and make use of structure; and 8) Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
Mammoth Unified School District teachers and staff began working on understanding the Common Core State Standards last year. Teacher leaders attended staff development and brought information back to their fellow teachers. This year, with special funding from the State of California to help schools with the implementation process, the District in collaboration with the teacher’s association (MEA) formed a Joint Common Core Steering Committee. The committee is comprised of nine teachers and four administrators. The agreement of Mammoth’s Joint Common Core Steering Committee states: “The MEA and the MUSD mutually believe that by innovatively implementing the Common Core State Standards we will ensure that ALL students are ready for college, career, and citizenships in the 21st century.” This committee researched proposals for staff development and instructional coaching from three different consulting groups and selected WestEd as the best fit for Mammoth.
WestEd is a nonprofit, public research and development agency that has been tackling educational issues since 1966. Our work with WestEd will begin in November staff development sessions on Early Release Days, followed demo lessons and facilitated lesson development. We will begin by focusing on increasing academic vocabulary and student discourse with active participation, equitable interaction, and accountable discussion.
We see our focus on instructional and learning practices for Common Core being ongoing for the next several years while we strive to ensure that every student is provided a rigorous educational experience that will ensure he/she is college and career and citizenship ready for the global world we live in today and in the future.
I am extremely pleased with the cooperative approach to the work of preparing ourselves as educators to accomplish this important work. We are excited to begin, and I am confident that this effort will result in improved learning for all our students.