The Power of Language and the Common Core
Posted by Michelle Saylor at 12/2/2011 3:00:00 PM
The transition from our current PA standards to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is quickly approaching, and like other districts, over the last year, we have invested significant time and manpower in reviewing our curriculum and aligning it to the Common Core. Teams of teachers have revisited our current maps, and through both vertical and horizontal conversations have begun creating cross walks and delineating the corresponding content. They’ve dug deep into the data, identified potential curricular gaps, defined learning targets, re-aligned courses, and initiated the critical process of ensuring our resources support our new curriculum.
Yet despite our efforts to be proactive in the face of change, the most challenging aspect of this work is yet to come. Until we delve deeply into the instructional elements of the Common Core we will not be able to ensure academic success for our students.
The CCSS sets higher expectations and provides guidelines for deeper understanding, but the power of the standards is not in the structural framework, the maps, but rather in the language that defines these new standards.
Our current Pennsylvania State Standards include language that asks our students to “identify”, “represent”, and “explain”. In contrast, the CCSS emphasizes “determine”, “create”, and “extend understanding”. This shift in the language of the standards forces teaching and learning to move to a higher level of thinking. The change adds levels of complexity and assumes students will be able to synthesize information and clearly articulate their thinking. No longer will a superficial understanding of content be sufficient for proficiency.
Our professional development with our faculty and staff needs to move beyond mapping to a concentrated focus on conversations around how this language transfers to teaching and learning. We need to not only unpack the standards, but also the meaning behind the words. What does the language of the CCSS assume our students need to be able to do and understand? What does it mean to “create”? What does it mean, instructionally, for our students to extend their understanding, to prove a concept, or to clarify meaning? With a higher thinking demand and greater text complexity, what will differentiation look like in our classrooms; how will we meet developmental needs? How does this language transfer to student learning? What does it mean in relationship to our classroom assessments?
These are the questions our work needs to revolve around; these are the questions, that if answered will empower our students. This is the power of our new Common Core Standards.
Resources for understanding the CCCSS: