NOT Business as Usual

It’s all about the core…

…as in the Common Core. Another school year is beginning but it won’t be business as usual! Big changes are here in Washington state:

  1. New Standards: The biggest change this year is the complete rollout of the Common Core State Standards. Addressing more than just content, these new standards also include Standards for Mathematical Practice which describe processes and proficiencies teachers should seek to develop in their students. Now we can retire the 2008 WA State Math Standards and stop trying to teach two sets of standards at each grade level or course. I don’t know about you, but I am excited that we will FINALLY complete this transition!
  2. New Assessments: The Smarter Balanced (SBAC) Assessments will replace the MSP in grades 3-8. The EOCs for Algebra and Geometry will be replaced with new Exit Exams that are aligned to the CCSS. And for the first time in Washington state, high school students will be tested on math standards through Algebra 2 when 11th graders take the SBAC Grade 11 Math Assessment this spring. All of these assessments will be more rigorous than our previous assessments and will target all DOK levels.
  3. New Types of Assessments: When students take the new SBAC assessments next Spring, they will take a computer-adaptive test that will include new item types such as multi-select and technology-enhanced items. These assessments will also include a performance task that requires students to problem solve, communicate mathematically, model with mathematics and analyze data.

Big changes indeed! Along with providing information and support for teachers to implement the new standards and prepare for the new assessments, I believe there are specific actions we can take to prepare for these changes:

  1. Eliminate the regular teaching of non-grade level content. Research shows that 25% of instructional time in the typical classroom is spent teaching standards from previous grade levels. We cannot and will not find the time teachers have told me they need if we spend our time teaching content that is below grade level. I do understand the need to meet kids where they are and that the transition to new standards may leave gaps we need to fill in for kids. However, we must find ways to do this while still moving forward and teaching our grade level standards.
  2. Address Depth of Knowledge. The new standards are more complex, and the new assessments will include items and tasks at a range of Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels. To prepare our students, we must provide opportunities for students to interact with content at a variety of DOK levels through the questions, tasks and assessments we design. In this post by Tracy Watanabe, she shares her thoughts on shifts that schools need to make to address DOK and practical strategies to promote higher order thinking.
  3. Move beyond answer-getting to sense-making. If students are going to be able to think about and use mathematics in meaningful ways, they have to make sense of it. In this talk by Phil Daro, he talks about the shift we must make from “How can I teach my students to get the answer?” to “How can I use this problem to get to the mathematics students need to learn?”
  4. Provide opportunities for TRUE problem solving and mathematical modeling. True problem solving is more than solving a word problem that contains all the information you need to answer the question. True problem solving involves situations that aren’t always so neat and tidy. Giving authentic problem solving and mathematical modeling tasks like these can create situations for us to develop the Standards for Mathematical Practice.
  5. Promote student mathematical discourse. The new assessments will require students to be able to communicate mathematically and I believe the best way to prepare students for this is to make it part of their everyday learning experience. The more we make this part of our classroom culture, the better prepared our students will be to demonstrate these skills on an assessment. Creating opportunities for student mathematical discourse will enable us to develop the Standards for Mathematical Practice.
  6. Make data-driven decisions about student learning. This means embedding formative assessment to inform instruction and help students self-assess their own progress toward the standards.

I believe focusing on these  strategies will help us implement the new standards and prepare our students for the new assessments. It’s a big task, but I think we are up for it. 🙂


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