Monday, February 04, 2013

Fun from Springfield

Once again, I made the trek down Interstate 55 to beautiful Springfield, IL for a Race to the Top meeting. At the meeting, we were able to interact and connect with other school districts who are participating in the program. There were breakout sessions on the Common Core, Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA), the 5 Essentials Survey of Learning Conditions, and the Illinois Shared Learning Environment (ISLE). Because we had a team attending the meeting, I went to the common core session, just to see if there was anything that we were missing. My notes can be found here.

Some interesting things from the session included the idea of presenting your community members, BOE, local business leaders, and parents with examples of the work that the students will be doing on the state assessments. It can lead to a great discussion of what work at home needs to be done to support learning, what work is being done at school and the connections that can be made/reinforced between the home and school, and clearly demonstrate the work that teachers are doing with students every day.

The math examples provided are definitely challenging for students, especially under timed conditions. Take a look:

Conceptual understanding
1. Write four fractions that are all equal to 5.
2. Write a number that is greater that 1/5 and less than 1/4.
3. What are two different equations with the same solution as 3(y-1)=8?

Mark each of the following as True or False


A plate of cookies:

  • There were 28 cookies on a plate
  • Five children each at one cookie
  • Two children each at 3 cookies
  • One child ate 5 cookies
  • The rest of the children each ate 2 cookies
  • Then the plate was empty,
How many children ate two cookies? Show your work.

Given an unlimited amount of time, the above tasks are solvable. Under a timed testing condition, these tasks become more challenging.

A nice resource provided by ISBE is their professional development series that is available on their website. There are differentiated resources available, depending on your foundational knowledge and level of implementation.

Another resource shared is the monthly Common Core News Letter. The series is called Capture the Core and is differentiated by grade level.

The activity that we did during the session was a modified role playing activity where we were divided into different constituent groups and asked to look at some framing questions through that group's lens. The groups were District Level, School Level, Classroom Level, and Community Level. Below are the main shared points from each group:
  1. District Level: Communication is key with all stakeholders. Discuss planning and implementation, what the changes will look like, and demonstrate how instruction will be different for teachers, students, and parents.
  2. School Level: Ensure that there is horizontal and vertical alignment within a school and between districts (feeder schools).
  3. Classroom Level: Provide immediate feedback to students on their learning. (Was in reference to different diagnostic and assessment tools)
  4. Community Level: Design specific times to involve parents (i.e. Open House, P/T conferences). Other suggestions included doing home visits to discuss curriculum changes at key transitions (5th to 6th, 8th to 9th grade) and provide an informative video about the necessary shifts. (e.g. from Bensenville

Overall, I feel very comfortable with how we have been implementing common core. There are some big changes that some districts will have to make. We are also awaiting guidance from the state to determine what sequence of math and science courses will become the official recommendation (i.e. Traditional vs Integrated).


Rob Raphael said...

I understand, like it or not, good and bad, Common Core is where we are at. Yet I look at the list of breakout sessions, and it's one government idea after another. Did you feel that as teachers your ideas and suggestions were being addressed at the meeting? Or was it simply learning to follow the lead of state and national education leaders?

Bob Abrams said...

Because this was specifically a Race to the Top Implementation meeting (as opposed to a learning conference), these breakout sessions were based on the criteria indicators that are required for the RT3 grant. Rob, I'll be honest that there was not a lot of input being taken at these breakout sessions. This series of breakout sessions was not meant to be a collaborative session, but the table discussions did provide a nice sharing experience. If we accept the common core at the rhetoric that is provided, then these new standards are a chance to explore topics more deeply and eliminate some of the breadth from the current curricula.