While we often hear about the progress that traditional public schools are making with the Common Core State Standards, public charter schools are embracing the CCSS as well. Here are some voices of public charter school educators who know that raising the bar for their students through higher academic standards is the key to improving education for all:
By Judy Burton and Dacia Toll, U.S. News & World Report
November 7, 2014
“Those of us who have built and sustained high-quality charter schools understand the value of setting high expectations for students and the educators who teach them. We seek educational excellence for all of our students. The Common Core State Standards give us shared clarity about what students need to be ready for college and the world beyond high school. “The very rigor of the standards makes them a challenge to implement. Yet we enthusiastically embrace them. As we observe in classrooms where teachers are striving to reach this higher bar, it is so clear that students are benefiting.”
“The universities, however, that our students will eventually attend don’t expect them to write or understand mathematics differently based on where they grew up. Algebra is not different in California or Connecticut, nor is successfully articulating an argument based on evidence. Universities expect sufficient academic capacity to succeed at the collegiate level without remediation. If we can help students master the Common Core State Standards, they will have with that capacity. “The Common Core raises the academic bar to reflect what students need for life beyond high school in an internationally competitive world. And the higher bar is going to be uncomfortable. Our schools have significantly outperformed the traditional public schools that surround us on state tests. But as new tests that measure the higher standards come online, our scores will tumble, and even if we are better than our peers, it will expose that we are not yet good enough.” And “For those of us who believe our students are capable of world-class performance, these standards are exactly what we have been demanding.”
By Lucy Boyd, Education Next
November 6, 2014
“When I tell people that I spent my summer creating a curriculum aligned with the Common Core State Standards, I invariably get a quizzical look. In the often heated national debate over the Common Core, opponents have cast the standards as a threat to teacher autonomy and students’ intellectual creativity. The result is a public perception that there is very little wiggle room for teachers in choosing what to present in their classrooms. My experience as a lead lesson planner reveals that perception to be a false one. “During my summer planning, I kept the Common Core standards next to me while I dove deeply into the novels and nonfiction works we would be reading in 7th-grade English the next year. The texts themselves were chosen by the leadership of my charter school network, Uncommon Schools, with guidance from both the Common Core text-selection criteria and the network’s own curricular team The lesson plan sequence, questioning, activities, close reading passages, schema, and focuses were up to me and my co-teacher."
“When the curriculum was completed, I felt confident about the lessons we had created, but knew this meant nothing if they did not resonate with the students. When preparing to teach 7th graders about dramatic irony and iambic pentameter, a teacher will naturally wonder, will this be too hard for them? A teacher’s worst nightmare is to look out across a room to see the blank faces of students who are completely perplexed.
“Happily, I found the answer to be no; it’s not too hard. For our final class session devoted to The Pearl by John Steinbeck, students were asked to evaluate Steinbeck’s characterization of Juana as weak. They first wrote their responses. Then “Daphne,” a student who often struggled in English class, raised her hand. Daphne explained how Steinbeck depicts Juana as physically weak because she doesn’t stand up to Kino’s violence, but mentally strong because she refuses to “submit” to the power of the pearl. She went on to explain that Steinbeck’s portrayal of Juana implies that she is stronger than Kino since the power of the pearl is what leads to his “destruction.” The sheer fact that Daphne described Steinbeck’s purpose with such precise vocabulary is, for me, proof that our students are more than ready for the challenge.
“Moments like these by no means prove that the Common Core standards are perfect, nor do they account for other influences on students’ learning. But as a teacher, I have found the Common Core standards to be an instrumental guide for constructing lessons that will challenge and engage my students.”
Achieve has developed materials to help states, districts, and others understand the organization and content of the standards and the content and evidence base used to support the standards. Visit www.achieve.org/achieving-common-core. If you find a news clip supportive of the Common Core, please send it to Chad Colby at firstname.lastname@example.org.