What Will Teaching and Learning Look Like Under the Common Core?

“I thought I was a really good math teacher. But now…I feel like I’m really teaching,” explained Julie Sanders, teacher of the year in Bedford City School District southeast of Cleveland, about using the Common Core State Standards. The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently profiled Julie and other local educators—who were early adopters of the Common Core—as part of a series of articles exploring how the new standards will change teaching and learning in classrooms across the state.

The Plain Dealer found teachers looking for ways to apply math lessons to real-world scenarios, promoting deeper understanding and mastery of the content.

Mastery is key, as well. Sanders said the old state standards required her to cover so much material that she would have to move on to the next item, regardless of whether some students did not fully understand a concept.

Now she regularly checks to see how well kids are doing instead of waiting for tests at the end of a unit, which would grade them but not give much opportunity to shore up weak spots before moving on.

“I don’t think that we expected that all of them could do it,” Sanders said. Now, I’m not moving on until they all master it in some way or they show some growth.”

In English Language Arts, students were not only asked to read and describe the theme of a poem or short story, but also show evidence to support their choice.

“Finding text evidence is the skill we want to develop most this year,” Berea-Midpark English Teacher Charles Salata told his sophomore English class. “Not just that you have an argument, but that you can back it up.”

Maren Koepf, an instructional coach at the Orange schools, joined the teachers in saying that the Common Core is making students into more critical thinkers. By making students start citing evidence on simple texts as early as elementary school, they said, they are teaching them the basics of how to write papers for college or presentations for jobs – along with the basic idea of using evidence to reach conclusions.

In general, The Plain Dealer observed or teachers reported:

  • Teachers spending more time on a subject, making sure more students master material before moving on to what’s next.
  • Teachers making students explain how they arrive at answers to questions, in both math and English Language Arts classes.      
  • A stronger emphasis on having students cite evidence from texts to support their conclusions.     
  • Teachers listing the goals of a lesson on their blackboards, on worksheets, or verbally at the start of a lesson, so students know in advance what they will know at the end.   
  • More lessons based on projects that students do, rather than on lectures by the teacher.

These positive accounts from the field coupled with strong support from educators nationally have not stopped a vocal opposition—often fueled by myths and misinformation—from trying to block adoption of the Common Core in Ohio and other states. Ohio House Bill 237, sponsored by State Representative Andy Thompson, would halt implementation of the standards in Ohio, costing districts millions of dollars in time and resources and derailing the progress that teachers across the state have already made, on behalf of their students, to embed the Common Core in the classroom.

HB 237 is scheduled for a second hearing in the Ohio House Education Committee on Wednesday, November 20 at 5 p.m., in Room 313 of the Statehouse. We encourage parents, teachers, school leaders, and other education stakeholders to come voice support for the Common Core and why it is important for the future of Ohio and the country.

“Children may represent a small percentage of our population, but they represent 100 percent of our future,” Battelle for Kids Executive Director Jim Mahoney wrote in a recent blog post on the Common Core. We must provide every student, whether they grew up in New York City, rural Ohio, or a suburb of Los Angeles, with the opportunity to master the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, career, and life. Implementation of the Common Core is a step in the right direction.

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