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A day of Common Core training

To follow is an excerpt of a post written by a teacher who experienced a day of training for the Common Core Standards (CCS).

confusing-street-sign1

We began the pivot toward the actual point of the by re-affirming that how we teach should be how we assess. Don’t do a project and then give a test– use the project as the actual assessment. Not for the last time today, I could see that if you squint your eyes and look at the good parts of CCSS (what I like to call “things good teachers already do”) it provides, all on its own, a pretty strong indictment of the high stakes testing program that is its conjoined twin.

Training Day- CCS, DOK, MOUSE

Today the state of Pennsylvania provided me with some CCSS training (well, not exactly, but we’ll get to that). This blog post will probably be on the long side and perhaps not as entertaining, but for those of you who are wondering what some of this stuff looks like up close, let me give you a look. Today’s training is:

Depth of Knowledge through Performance Tasks (presented in partnership with the Common Core Institute) 

Training today involved about seventy teachers and administrators at the Intermediate Unit office (in PA, there are regional field offices for the PA DOE) in the Hemlock Room. Yes, just like the poison you drink if you’re an ancient Greek philosopher who wants to kill himself. You can’t make this stuff up.

Welcome

The IU lady, who never actually introduced herself nor wore a name tag, started things off with a pep talk for CCSS. “It’s not as much about new content as it is new teaching,” she said. “We’ve been going on an efficiency model.” She observed that we would now be moving on to effectiveness, and that word reminded her of the new teacher evals in PA. What better way to start the day than a reminder that our professional evaluations are riding on this stuff.

She introduced Ed Heelifeld (my best phonetic rendering) who taught high school math for 12 years but is now a sales and service rep for Common Core Institute. “We help people implement the common core.” So, “institute” here means “program sales company.” It’s a nice touch. I bet in retrospect Ray Kroc wishes he had started the “McDonald’s Hamburger and Fries Institute.”

Ed turns us over to the lead dog on this CCSS bobsled today– Jill Stine.

Jill Stine

Jill Stine works for some combination of CCI and the Center for College and Career Readiness. She has a varied background in ed, ranging from teaching deaf classes at Camp Hill Prison to Title I reading to assistant principal. She worked with Bob Marzano in Florida implementing teacher evaluations. She’s not shy– I know all of the above because she told us. She described working with Marzano as “a fun time” in a tone suggesting it was contentious and that she knows not everyone loves her work.

It would be entertaining to describe her as a difficult, unpleasant human being with horns and foul breath, but she came across as fairly straightforward and likeable. She took questions, generally didn’t evade, and was willing to engage with those of us who had issues with the program. A quick search suggested that she has occasionally been a bit too forthright in the past. She was reasonable and human, but unapologetically described herself as having “drunk the Kool Aid.”

The First Thing I Did Not Expect

Stine’s brief version of the CCSS origin story was a new one on me. In her story, the creators looked across all the state standards to see what standards they had in common. Then they asked if those standards were getting the job done. Then they overlaid another level of complexity to make them more better. Make of that what you will.

Rigor

I’m actually looking forward to the day that “efficacy” takes over. We had a long discussion about what rigor is and is not. She showed us that little bad animation cartoon where the Britishy principal grills the teacher about rigor. She shared the Barbara Blackburn definition of rigor. We brainstormed a bunch of ideas. I must conclude once again that “rigor” is either A) everything we all already knew was a good thing to do as a teacher, or B) magical fairy dust of learning.

I’m Starting To Understand Randi Weingarten

We began the pivot toward the actual point of the by re-affirming that how we teach should be how we assess. Don’t do a project and then give a test– use the project as the actual assessment. Not for the last time today, I could see that if you squint your eyes and look at the good parts of CCSS (what I like to call “things good teachers already do”) it provides, all on its own, a pretty strong indictment of the high stakes testing program that is its conjoined twin.

But I can see how, close up, it might look like testing is somehow twisting CCSS all out of shape, and if you could just get the foot of testing off the neck of CCSS, the standards would spring back to life. Because frequently in the session you arrive at a variation on “Well, that would be swell– except for the test that’s coming.” I contend that testing has not bent CCSS out of shape– that IS it’s shape. But I can see how, close up, you’d think otherwise.

I suspect that this is part of the reason that the CCSS reformista package gives so many people gut-level cognitive dissonance even when they don’t fully understand it. It’s like a bad M C Escher drawing where segments try to be two mutually contradictory things at once. It can’t all be true at the same time.

So anyway– better assessments. Also, kids have changed. Remember that for later.

To read this post in full, go to Curmudgucation.
Dora Taylor

5 comments on “A day of Common Core training

  1. seattleducation2011
    February 6, 2014

    Mark,

    I am glad to post articles on the subject written by teachers who want to share their thoughts and experiences..

    I believe that when parents are informed of these issues, they will speak up and stand alongside teachers.

    Dora

  2. Mark Ahlness
    February 6, 2014

    Great piece Dora. Still, I wish the general public knew how long this training has been going on. Two years ago, teaching in an SPS school, there was mandatory training for some grade levels on ccss. I saw excellent teachers in tears after having the nerve to question anything about it. Got my hand slapped as well. It is much more intense now. Resistance is futile, that’s the attitude in many schools, ugh. And of course the SPS math adoption MUST be aligned with ccss…

  3. paabr
    February 6, 2014

    Today is Parents Across America Baton Rouge’s first day of our blog roll outs. Can you help bring attention to our posts?

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This entry was posted on February 6, 2014 by in Common Core Standards and tagged , , .
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