Teachers who have been implementing collaborative projects that require criticial thinking are finding that they are getting a jump start on Common Core Standards now being developed.
Middle school English teacher Kellie Madden already has a good grasp of the new Common Core State Standards. In fact, she has been teaching to those standards for the past two years without realizing it.
Madden teaches each summer in a program where students collaborate on projects that require critical thinking, communication skills and the ability to take charge of their own learning – essentially a blueprint for how to apply the new state standards. Adopted by California and 44 other states, the new standards emphasize an in-depth approach to subjects, the development of verbal and analytical skills, teamwork, and student-centered learning focused on real-world examples. Hands-on projects and robust discussions among students replace lecture-style teaching.
This school year, Madden is using almost every lesson she developed for the summer program to help 7th and 8th graders struggling with English in the intervention class she teaches during the regular school year at Katherine Edwards Middle School in Whittier City School District in Los Angeles County.
In both programs, the students focus on “close reading,” in which they pay attention to how an author uses individual words and how his ideas unfold and build to a climax.
No statistics are available on how many California school districts are discovering that their summer programs may have already been using teaching methods that align to the Common Core standards, which are being implemented in most schools for the first time this academic year. But a recent report from the Oakland-based nonprofit advocacy group Partnership for Children & Youth, Getting a Head Start on the Common Core, indicates that a number of districts are relying on summer programs to introduce and reinforce the new standards.
“The educators and staff at these programs emphasize learning that excites students in new ways about reading, science, writing and math,” wrote report author Mary Perry, an education consultant. “School agencies are finding that these summer learning programs … are consistent with instructional strategies recommended for the Common Core.”
Another report, released January, contends that expanded learning time, whether in summer or after-school, is essential to give teachers and students enough time to practice and master the new standards.
“The impact of the Common Core on classrooms – for both teachers and students – will be significant in many ways, not least of which is how time is used and the quantity of time needed to allow learning to flourish,” according to the report, Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation, from the Washington D.C.–based think tank Center for American Progress and the Boston-based National Center on Time & Learning, an advocacy group for expanded learning.
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