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This post will be updated periodically to answer frequently asked questions in regards to Common Core/NC Essential Standards roll-out here in PCS. The most recent questions submitted will be located towards the top of this document, organized by date. Check back often for updates.
Q&A from 1/17/12
Question: Some of the “Anchor Standards” seem to be complex for kindergarten students. Do we have to incorporate all of these standards?
Answer: The anchor standards are K-12 anchor standards.
Question: Why another change?
Answer: Because our students, by and large, are falling further and further behind students from other countries – even when you compare “like” students (ie, high to high) There are lots of reasons for this, but suffice it to say that we are falling further and further behind. The new standards are a way to raise the expectation for students and for teachers to ensure all students excel.
Question: What’s going to happen when test scores drop?
Answer: Everyone seems to be afraid of test scores dropping, and while it’s not desirable, lower test scores should motivate us to examine how we can do a better job of preparing students. For all its flaws (and there are many), one thing NCLB has forced us around the country to do is look at the achievement of all students and not just white students. Test scores “dropped” significantly 10 years ago when NCLB when into effect, but now we have examples of schools all across this nation who have risen to the challenge or educating every child and they are succeeding at it. This change to new standards, should it lead to an initial “drop” in test scores, should do the same.
Question: There will always be struggling students, how will they not fall through the cracks?
Answer: This is ultimately a philosophical question. While I understand this position, at the end of the day it is simply an excuse. There are already schools in this nation where 100% of students are performing at grade level and doing well – students from every socio-economic level and NCLB subgroup. If others can do it, so can PCS. As long as we believe there are students who will fall through the cracks we will have students who fall through the cracks. When I was in graduate school I did an action research project looking at characteristics of students who had passed and who had failed the EOG. While there were many factors we looked at, the one that was absolutely mind-blowing was that for every single child who failed indicated they did not believe their teacher believed they could learn. Not a single child who failed the test said they believed their teacher believed they could learn. If that doesn’t wake us up to the power of expectations I’m not sure what will. At the end of the day, if a teacher doesn’t believe every child in their class can learn then that teacher has no place in a classroom.
Question: How do they expect us to spend more time on planning when they are implementing and placing so much on us? (The new standards, PDP’s, Read3D, etc….)
Answer: Three different things are listed here: New Standards, PDPs, and Read 3D. Let’s start with PDPs. A PDP is simply a way for you as a professional to invest in your own growth and professional development. It is hardly a waste of time. Any professional who feels charting a plan for improvement is a waste of time needs to find a new profession. Second, Read 3D is an assessment tool and not an instructional strategy – it lets you know how your students are doing. As I speak with Principals, ICs, and teachers and listen to their concerns regarding Read 3D what seems to be the issue is in the fact we are monitoring such a large number of students as often as we do. However, as our students become more proficient (as a result of us raising the bar and doing a better job instructing), the number of students requiring frequent monitoring will reduce, meaning less time will be spent on Read 3D. The third thing, new standards, is addressed by other questions on this blog.
Question: When will there be a more in depth training of how shift 3 will look during instruction?
Answer: Training in the new standards is an on-going process, one that will happen this year, next year, and continue after that. There will be plenty of opportunities to further explore Shift 3 as we learn these new standards together. Remember that the standards themselves do not refer to “Six Shifts” (of which Shift 3 is only the third); the shifts are an easy way to identify changes between old and new standards. As such, as we learn the new standards and as we teach the new students we will develop a deeper understanding of the “six shifts”
Question: How does Guided Reading fit in with ELA Shift 3/How do we teach both guided reading and use grade level texts at the same time?
Answer: The answer to this comes in looking at the PCS reading model that was given out to all reading teachers on January 17. Guided reading is a part of teaching reading, but it can not be all of teaching reading. Shift 3 indicates that students need to be working with grade level texts in appropriate amounts. Higher students may spend more time working with grade level texts while lower-level students may focus on smaller portions or excerpts from those texts. What is important is that every child needs to interact with grade level texts. Period. Students will not grow more than one grade-level in a year if all they ever are exposed to are the guided reading texts – they must be stretched at times, and that stretching may be with grade level texts.
Question: How do we prioritize so we can fit it all in? How do we have time in the instructional day to meet these requirements?
Answer: The answer to this is two-fold. First, we need to understand that a major shift of the new standards is learning “less more”. In other words, we’re spending more time on fewer topics, so in some ways teachers will have more time (not less time) to teach for mastery. Having said that, there are already multiple schools in this district who are working to expand their instructional day. This is a double-edged sword: we know that students will not grow more than one year if we don’t give them more learning time. However, if we just give them more of the ineffective instruction that hascreated the very problem of low performance then they will not grow. The new standards are forcing us to look not only at content but at pedagogy – in a good way. The introduction of PLCs in this district should force us to examine how students are learning and how teachers are teaching so that we can adjust our teaching to improve student learning. The answer to “how do we prioritize” is, simply, to get rid of all that distracts us from improving our instruction. Having said that – it’s much easier said than done, and that’s where the hard work of school administrators and teacher leaders will come in: school improvement teams, principal advisory councils, and curriculum teams must make some hard decisions about what is working and what is not – and when something is not working it needs to be gotten rid of.
Question: How does this time in or allow for EOG test prep time?
Answer: This is a great question because it allows us to acknowledge a mindset in education that is having devastating effects on our children: namely, that we teach to a test. Michael Schmoker, in his 2009 book Results Now, page 45, shares a case study offered up in a 2003 issue of Kappan. The long and short of it is that when “teachers, in teams, examine…assessed standards” (ie, PLCs) they find that tests, “really [do] measure the kids of skills and knowledge students [need] to be successful.” The key is in aligning our instruction to the state standards. With a new set of standards being introduced we have the opportunity that many educators have been dreaming of: the ability to design our own curriculum, based on what we as educators (ie, experts) know students need to learn. The new standards – more than any other standards ever written – make explicit what it is students need to both know and do. Now we need to change our instructional mindset and work together (which, let’s be honest, in itself is a shift for many teachers in our district) to design and deliver a truly “common, guaranteed, viable” curriculum. How do we do that? By working in PLCs to design units and lessons, creating common formative assessments, examining the data from those assessments, and using that data to guide instructional practices. We don’t need more time for “test prep” – if we would just teach the standards and the curriculum as it should be taught, and if we would integrate EOG/EOC-style questioning into our tests, then we wouldn’t need to spend time on “test prep”. There is always a time for going over basic test-taking strategies (pacing, how to eliminate options on a multiple-choice test, or how to manage stress), but when we focus on “test prep” we miss the boat. The new standards should focus us less on teaching to a test and more on just teaching what is important, and teaching it well.
Q&A from 10/28
Question: What exactly will principals/evaluators be looking for in the classroom as opposed to now?
Answer: This is a difficult question to answer concretely because every principal has specific expectations in regards to what they see in their building. In a very general way, though, principals will be looking for more cross-curricular integration, student-led work, project-based learning, and 21st Century Skills (including global awareness). The new teacher evaluation instrument is already very supportive of the new standards, so teachers need to ensure they are demonstrating the skills called for in the teacher standards.
Question: How is the EOG/EOC going to change to represent the new standards?
Answer: We do not know exactly at this time how the state tests will look with the new standards, however, for those interested in following updates directly you are encouraged to visit http://dpi.state.nc.us/acre/assessment/online/ for updated information on the transition to online-testing.
Question: How will missing gaps be addressed? (ie, missing what the CC/ES require to be taught but the current SCOS doesn’t?)
Answer: The state is currently developing lesson-plans to specifically address the gaps in learning. These plans will be available by next year so that teachers will be able to ensure learning objectives are covered in the transition from the current NCSCOS to the new standards.
Question: Will we get paid the summer for training?
Answer: At this time we are not sure what summer training will look like, so it is not possible to answer this question. Summer training (if offered) may involve large numbers of teachers or just representative teachers from across the county.
Question: Will we get new instructional resources that are aligned with the new standards?
Answer: There are already many free resources available on the web for the new standards, and some current resources (such as Study Island) are already aligned to the new standards. Because of the nature of the standards, teachers will be expected to locate some of these free resources on their own. The concept that a teacher used the textbook as the curriculum was never an accurate one – textbooks were supposed to be the resource and teachers the content-experts. The transition to the new standards will put the power and authority back in the teacher’s hands in many respects, because they will be able to design some of their own curriculum as the content-level expect. PCS is currently exploring options for resources that may need to be purchased next year as well.
Question: Can this be phased in one level at a time?
Answer: While some states are phasing in the standards, DPI has indicated that all new standards must be put into place for the 2012-2013 school year.
Question: When will teachers receive individual copies of the standards?
Answer: The standards are available for anyone who desires their own copy by visiting http://dpi.state.nc.us/acre/standards/. There is also a Common Core app for the iPhone and Android phones (sorry, nothing on the Essential Standards, yet). Because of the extreme length of the standards and all supporting documents, the state is not supplying paper copies. Teachers are encouraged to download electronic copies of the standards from the website above.
Question: When will the state tests be aligned to the new standards?
Answer: The 2012-2013 school year.
Question: Will time for collaboration be allotted throughout the 2012-2013 academic year?
Answer: Time for collaboration and planning will be decided at the individual school level. The PCS calendar committee is aware that we are transitioning to new standards this year and a request has been submitted to include additional time in the schedule for ongoing integration days throughout the year, but whether that request will be granted or not is yet to be seen.
Question: What is the difference between the Common Core and the NCSCOS?
Answer: The Common Core/Essential Standards represent the NEW NCSCOS beginning in the 2012-2013 school year.
Question: When do we get another training session?
Answer: January 17, 2012
Question: How are teachers expected to continue teaching effectively with the new responsibility of formally keeping track of data with no extra time built into the schedule?
Answer: This is not meant to sound harsh, but teachers have always been expected to formally track data for students. This is not a new expectation and not one that is new to the new standards
Question: Will the HS courses keep the current vertical alignment for ELA, Math, and Social Studies?
Answer: The HS order of classes is currently under discussion and a decision will be made shortly.
Question: Will there ever be a modified set of standards for EC students?
Answer: There are modified standards for our low-functioning EC population, but all EC students are expected to be taught the regular CC/EC standards.
Question: Is Common Core/Essential Standards a “What” you teach or “how” you teach?
Answer: It is both.
Question: How will parents be educated on the new standards?
Answer: Parents will be kept informed of changes by media releases, this blog, and also by school-level meetings as appropriate. Schools are encouraged to pass on information to parents at the appropriate time.
Question: May we begin now or do we need to wait for 2012-2013?
Answer: There are several schools who are already implementing certain parts of the new standards. Those subjects that do not have a state-level test at the end of the year are encouraged to implement as many of the new standards as they are able to. Subjects such as Math, ELA, Biology, of any other subject requiring an EOG/EOC test are cautioned in their level of implementation for this year since the 2012 test will test the current standards and not the new ones.
Question: How long do you anticipate the new standards being in practice?
Answer: Again, this is a difficult question to answer because the decision to move to the new standards is not a district-level decision but a state-level decision. The bottom line is that whether the state uses these standards for 1 year or 50 years we need to be prepared to teach them to our students next year. From a practical standpoint, and astronomical amount of money has been invested in both designing the new standards as well as training them and designing a new form of assessments (including online assessments to be given in 2014). These standards will most likely be here for a long time.
Question: Will there be continued support as we implement this change?
Answer: Yes. That is one major reason we have elected to roll-out the standards through PLCs, so that the PLCs can continue for multiple years and provide a vehicle by which teachers can collaborate on the new standards for the long-haul.
Question: Are we going to have more time to learn and dig deeper into the standards?
Answer: Yes. There are three more district-level days set aside for training (January 17, March 2, and March 23).
Question: How are we supposed to write the objective? Before we could write something like 4.01 or 4.02, etc. How will we code them now?
Answer: This will be a school-level decision. When I worked at the school level I required teachers to write the full objective (and not just the number) for students because the number means absolutely nothing except to the person writing the objective. Students do not know what “4.01″ means, but when the objective is written in student-friendly language they can understand it.
Question: How will this effect the way we are evaluated?
Answer: You will still be evaluated on the teacher evaluation standards. The new student standards would affect Standard III, on content-area knowledge. Because teachers are evaluated by their individual principals this is a conversation every principal needs to have with their staff. Having said that, with new standards for students most teachers should expect to begin the year at “developing” and progress towards “proficient” over the course of the year. Very few, if any, teachers could have a legitimate claim to either an “Accomplished” or “Distinguished” rating in the areas on the evaluation instrument that relate to knowledge of the student standards since they are so new. This will be an adjustment for teachers who have consistently received high ratings on their evaluation.
Question: Will these new standards change our lesson plan formats?
Answer: Lesson plan formats are a school-level decision.
Question: Should an IEP be written at this point in the school year to have SCOS objectives or CC/ES objectives?
Answer: If you reference SCOS in general the IEP you should be fine because the SCOS are the CC/ES for next year. If you refer to specific objective numbers then IEPs will most likely need to be amended at the beginning of the 2012 year to reflect the new standards.
Question: When will we get the crosswalk documents?
Answer: Crosswalk documents are available at http://dpi.state.nc.us/acre/standards/
Q&A from 9/15/11
Question: Will there be videos to show model lessons being taught using the new common core curriculum with real teachers and real students?
Answer: We are being told that the state is working on developing a repository of sorts for these types of resources. We have asked school leaders in our county to let the RttT/Staff Development Department know when they see stuff going on in their building that they think needs to be shared because we do have the capability of video taping teachers in our own county and uploading that video content to PD360 for our teachers to look at. If you have suggestions on teachers or classrooms to look at (including your own) please speak with your administrator so they can pass that information on.
Question: How will the NCES tie into or support the Common Core?
Answer: The NCES and the CCSS are two separate things – one (the CCSS) is content standards for the subjects of Math and ELA (which includes writing and reading in the content areas) which have been adopted by most states, and one (the NCES) is the content standards for subject areas besides Math and ELA and they apply only to North Carolina. There are some strong similarities between the two sets of standards, but there are also some important differences. For a fuller explanation of the differences please refer to this post. It is important to understand that both the CCSS and NCES include a strong requirement that instruction happen in real-world, content-integrated ways. This means that while the standards are separate from each other they (meaning the standards themselves) require integration in order to be mastered by students. While the RBT (Revised Blooms’ Taxonomy) terms are specifically used in the CCSS, use of RBT at all levels will assist teachers in better aligning the standards with each other and empowering all students to reach their fullest potential.
Question: Will the EOG results turn-around-time remain the same?
Answer: It is impossible to answer this question simply because we don’t know exactly what the tests will look like in three years. What I can say is this: we are very quickly moving towards online-testing for all tests given (both EOC and EOG). It would be my assumption (note that word) that test results would be available even sooner than they are now (perhaps even immediately) since they could be scored automatically by the system. Again, this is just my personal thinking and prediction and it is not based on any information that has been given to me.
Q&A from 8/25/11
Question: Can we formulate our lessons around the standards this year?
Answer: This is a tricky question to answer simply because the State assessments at the end of the year will not assess the CCSS/NCES but will instead assess the NCSCOS. At this time I would personally discourage most teachers from doing this until they have had the opportunity to carefully study and examine both the new standards themselves and the crosswalk documents (which will be done throughout the year in our trainings). Once you have a broader understanding of what the new standards entail as well as how they compare with the current standards it would be very beneficial for you to include the new standards in your instruction for the areas they align with the NCSCOS. Also know that we do have a small number of teachers around the county who are piloting a much more thorough integration of the standards into their classes so that they can help other teachers in the transition down the road.
The best thing you can do to prepare for the new standards is to have a strong understanding of the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy and integrate it into your classroom, as well as focusing on the areas of critical thinking skills, global awareness, and 21st Century Skills. A major shift in the CCSS/NCES deals not just with content but process as well. While content may change between the NCSCOS and the CCSS/NCES, the process by which you address the new standards can be applied to the current standards. Focus this year on adapting your process (ie, integrating 21st Century Skills, working on Global Awareness, transitioning into more student-directed activities or cooperative learning experiences for your students) and next year you will be prepared for the new standards.
Question: Who is the team, how can we contact them and get them to advocate for us?
Answer: Our district level team consists of teachers, instructional coaches, principals, curriculum specialists, and central office personnel. The team currently consists of (listed in alphabetical order of last name):
Contact emails for each member are located in your Novell Groupwise Address Book. As the RttT Coordinator you can always contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-830-4225. As the year progresses we will develop other teams who will work directly with teachers and school departments to assist with training.
Question: Is our first training on Crosswalks so we will have time to transition students on objectives that are changing?
Answer: The first full day of training (October 28) has yet to be planned. I am currently reviewing the information and data collected as a result of the August 19 training and once the team has gone through it we will use that information to plan our trainings this year. Rest assured that you will have plenty of time to examine the Standards as well as both the Crosswalk and Unpacking documents.
Question: Is there a model state and are states meeting together to transition?
Answer: While the CCSS themselves are the same for every state that has adopted them, each state has the autonomy to transition to the standards in their own way. For example, some states are doing a phased transition to the standards and, as such, have already been using them for a year or so. Other states (like NC) will transition to the standards all in one year. Still others are only adopting some of the standards and not all of them. As your RttT Coordinator, who is responsible for overseeing this process, I have been in contact with, and will remain in contact with, colleagues in other states who are going through this same process. The added component for NC is that we are implementing new standards in areas outside ELA and Math – in other words, the NCES.
Question: Where do Encore teachers fit in with training?
Answer: Encore teachers will receive the same training in their new standards as every other content area receives in their standards.
Question: When do we get to plan with teachers to integrate our lessons?
Answer: This will be decided largely on a school-by-school basis outside of the four days reserved for the district. One major way we intend to roll out the training is providing time for teachers to work in PLCs to study the standards, crosswalks, and unpacking documents and then work to develop plans to align with those standards. For a best implementation, however, teachers will need to devote time outside of the four district days to do this. An idea way for that to happen is through the PLC model.
Question: How will the new 185 student day school year affect our salaries?
Answer: Even though there will be an increase of 5 student days in the calendar for the 2012-2013 SY there will not be an increase in 5 contract days for employees since the legislation simply converts current work days to student days. Teachers will not be required to work more days in the 2012-2013 school year, so the 185 student day calendar will not affect salaries.
Question: Can I work on some CCSS committee?
Answer: Every school will need people to assist in implementation and transition, so you need to speak to your Principal about your specific schools’ needs. If you are interested in serving as a district-level level representative please let your Principal know so they can be in contact with us. Because of the size of our district and all that will be required for transition to the CCSS/NCES there will be plenty of opportunity for teachers to serve at a variety of levels.
Question: What are the dates for the four district-level trainings?
Answer: The four dates are:
These dates are not optional workdays and can not be taken off by teachers.
Question: Will we be providing printed copies of the CCSS/NCES?
Answer: No. The standards, including all supporting documentation (unpacking documents, crosswalks, etc) are extremely long documents (700+ pages for some of them), so it is unpractical to print them. All the standards are available for download from the ACRE website (here’s a link for the Essential Standards, here is another for the Common Core State Standards, here is the link for the Extended Content Standards, and here are links for unpacking/crosswalks for the Essential Standards and the Common Core State Standards). There is also an app for the iPod/iPhone/iPad and Droid mobile devices available which lists all the CCSS (but not the NCES)
Q&A From 8/23/11
Question: Why does the federal government not develop common pacing guides for all states that are part of the common core instead of each state developing their own?
Answer: The federal government has no legal jurisdiction outside those defined by the Constitution of the United States and, as per the Constitution’s 10th Amendment, anything not included in the Constitution falls to the states. Since there is nothing in the Constitution regarding education as a responsibility of the federal government that responsibility rests squarely with the States. What the federal government CAN do is tie funding to requirements it sets up, but it can not dictation “National Standards”
Question: How do we fill the gaps in the “spiral staircase” approach?
Crosswalk documents have been developed by the State of NC to identify “gaps” between the current NCSCOS and the CCSS/NCES. The State will also assist with developing lesson plans to fill these “gaps” for students in the coming years.
Question: Why do we not have common core for all subjects?
Currently the Common Core only applies to ELA and Math, though it is possible standards will be created for other subjects down the road. While I can’t say with any authority, I have heard rumors as I have traveled this summer that there is an attempt to create Common Core standards in Science but the groups participating in the creation of those standards have not been able to come to consensus on them. Common Core standards in Social Studies are especially difficult because so much of the social studies curriculum is regionally driven. For those interested in following the development of science standards you can read this document. Also remember that the ELA standards incorporate literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.
Question: How much training will be provided on the common core? Will teachers be prepared?
At a bare minimum there are four days devoted to the training in CCSS/NCES this school year. In addition to that key teacher leaders will be identified throughout the district to assist in learning the standards themselves and then training other teachers at their school, and the 2012 Curriculum Summer Institute will focus on preparing teachers for CCSS/NCES lessons in their classrooms. Teachers who take advantage of these trainings will be prepared to teach these standards next year. In fact, teachers in PCS are in many ways ahead of the curve on this because the CCSS/NCES align with the requirements set out in the new Professional Teaching Standards (particularly with it’s emphasis on Global Awareness, Critical Thinking Skills, and 21st Century Skills.)
Question: Will I be able to see sample lesson plans?
Answer: Yes. We are being told that sample plans will be developed at the State level. Additionally, there are many sample plans already available through resources such as the Common Core website. Teachers in PCS will also be developing and sharing sample plans as the year goes on.
Question: Will we get more training on incorporating the RBT (Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy) in our lessons?
Answer: Yes. In fact, our early emphasis in training for the CCSS/NCES will focus largely on better understanding and incorporating the RBT into lessons for the simple fact that incorporating RBT into lessons can be done now.
Question: How will guidance fit into the NCES?
Answer: There are currently draft NCES for guidance which are set to be approved this fall. To view them click here.
Question: How are we to tie in SIOP with common core – what does it look like?
Answer: SIOP actually goes along with the CCSS/NCES nicely. Remember that SIOP deals in large part with instructional strategies to engage all learners and the CCSS/NCES talk about what those learners need to learn. SIOP and the CCSS/NCES integration will not be that different than the current SIOP and NCSCOS integration we have in the district at this point. In fact, it should be even easier to address SIOP through the new standards because the new standards will require much more student-centered activities and teaching than the NCSCOS did.
Question: Which standards are we being held to this year?
Answer: The current NCSCOS.