Their merits are commendable. “Student Achievement Partners, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that assembles educators and researchers to design strategies based on evidence that will substantially improve student achievement. It is devoted to the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards.”
They go on to identify the fact that they are not in pursuit of any state contracts nor take money from publishers. As such, they have freely released many resources including their professional development modules for teacher Common Core State Standards implementation strategies at www.achievethecore.org. I go take a look like I have for a number of high-profile, large scale, large agency CCSS pd models online over the last year. Alas, more of the same.
For the record, I am not specifically targeting Achieve the Core nor their efforts. I am targeting tired professional development models. I have been involved in designing, developing, and implementing professional development in various forms, from workshops for less than 10 teachers, to conferences for hundreds, to online modules for thousands for the better part of a decade. I am critical. Therefore, I find myself once again being asked to look at a new, nationwide model for CCSS training. I conversely find myself again asking,
“Why do we not apply our own most basic understanding about differentiated learning, engaging activities, and use of instructional media and technology to our own learning as educators?”
So here I go…These modules are rife with exhaustive powerpoint presentations with slide after slide of information redundant to any and all instructional practices/pedagogy/strategies of the past five decades.
This just in….there are many ways to scaffold student learning as they meet the standard:
- Multiple readings
- Read Aloud
- Chunking text (a little at a time)
- Provide support while reading, rather than before.
(the above taken from actual slide of Introduction to ELA/Literacy Shifts module)
The central “hands-on” activity of the module is to have your English teachers read the reading standards and then in small groups of 2-5 generate a 1-5 word phrase that best captures the essence of the standard. Then have a discussion of their resulting titles.
Here are the directions, complete with a worksheet handout to write down your imagined titles.
Participants will closely read and name the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects with a 1 -5 word phrase, which will allow them to become more familiar with the content of the standards. Participants will record their work on the Name the Standards handout. Begin with the Reading strand and continue with the Writing strand as time permits. Allow 20 – 40 minutes for this activity.
So consider reading with a partner something like this:
- Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
And maybe coming up with the 1-5 word phrase like: evidence about date and origin
Then, being asked to consider other groups that came up with phrases like, evidence to support analysis, or analysis of sources, or evidence from primary and secondary sources (oops, I went over 5 words there), etc…and then you all have to work to come to consensus on an appropriate title while the facilitator has a worksheet that says, “help teachers work towards the answer of evidence” Now multiply that times every reading standard for the grade levels you collectively support.
Yawn, Yawn, Yawn…
Don’t believe me…go take a look. (http://www.achievethecore.org/ela-literacy-common-core/professional-development/introduction-literacy-shifts-content-areas)
Perhaps while we consider how to best Achieve the Core, we can consider better ways to achieve professional development that is not one-size-fits all, modeled after archaic one-dimensional teaching strategies that have long since been chastised as poor classroom practice, and acknowledge any of the technical media and content that has been in place for the better part of the last two decades. Can we all just agree to try to not be so damn common in our Common Core implementation models?
The critic in my own head is already saying, “Hey Mister! You are quick to point out what is wrong with PD…so how about tendering a genuine idea of your own?”
And I get that. Off the top of my head for that given activity, I would probably gather together a good 10-15 videos of classroom practice and other instructional reource samples of teaching and/or skills and assign teachers to connect them to standards of “best-fit”. We could then expose where teachers connected them consistently across their own analysis and where there was significant incongruence in their response. (By the way, Achieve the Core has some good, albeit very limited video case studies of classroom practice…but didn’t use them in their PD modules for some reason).
Additionally, I set my expectations higher for a group that nationally touts, “Our goal is to create and disseminate high quality materials as widely as possible. All resources that we create are open source and available at no cost.” and can only conclude that they are trying to remind me of the old adage my grandmother liked so well, You get what you pay for. And while we are on the topic of maternal adages, my mother liked the saying, “Always look for the silver lining.”…so here it is: For the children’s sake, we can be glad the folks that come up with “learning activities” such as these aren’t in classrooms any longer (if they ever were).