Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Educational Buzzwords...M: Missouri Learning Standards and the Common Core queue Dave Stuart Jr.

I'd like to premise this post with the following:

I understand that there are people in the world who are incredibly anti-common core. If you are one of those people, this post is not for you (you can read all the links filed underneath 'Common Core Concerns'). I hope I have written it in such a way that there's really nothing to argue about, but just in case there is, this post is not the place to do so. Please keep your conspiracy theories, anti-government/Obama rants and off-topic links to yourself. If you would like to comment, please understand that if you comment in a way that is not intelligent or helpful your comment will be deleted by me (this includes those who agree and disagree with what I've written below). Thank-you for your time!

What common core is:
[Read more about that here]

What common core is not:

  • Mandated curriculum
  • Mandated pace of said curriculum
  • Mandated books, essays and poems that must be taught during a certain year
  • Mandated laws in your state, rules in your home, policies at your school
  • Mandated classroom formatives and summatives

Only your state and local school district can do any of the above (update 4/16-see: "Don't Squander Teachers' Support for the Common Core" for more information on how states can really screw things up)...and, if they are, you probably need to ask yourself the following a] is this something that I know is wrong, have they crossed a line, and do I need to talk to my superintendent(s)/legislature about it? or b] is my school sucking it up so bad that my central office and the school board really do need to get involved to fix this mess?

Where do the Missouri Learning Standards fit into all of this?
The MLS are CCSS and Show-Me Standard aligned. They prepare students for college and careers. Schools can choose to adopt or modify the model curriculum units, but, they do not have to (of note: I've been using aspects of their model curriculum for years).

About the Missouri Learning Standards

What common core...er...MLS look like in my classroom?
OK, so when they initially rolled out the CCSS, I was a little freaked out. I had been working with the CLEs/GLEs so long that I'd practically had those puppies memorized (ok, fine I did/still do have them memorized). There were too many standards for me to get my head around, and then I began reading. We have a Staff-Development Center and there, with the help of The Carols (semi-retired STAR teachers who help us with data, New Teacher Institute and PD), we unpacked the standards, aligned them to the CLEs (a copy of which can be found here) and realized they're just what students should be doing anyway. In many ways they're getting back to the basics of what teaching is: students reading complex texts, students being challenged to think, students being able to write and explain said thinking critically. They are what it takes to be College and Career ready, actually if you ask Dave Stuart, he might say that while there are many, many, many standards, they aren't enough (see: 9 Skills the Common Core Doesn't List, But That Employers Want Anyway). They are what good teachers do even when no one is watching.

Example unit(s) from Sophomore English with Pacing Guides
Example unit(s) from Freshmen English with Pacing Guides

Who is this Dave Stuart person and why should I be listening to him?
From his blog:
Dave’s audiences appreciate that he teaches full-time, daily bridging the gap between theory and practice in his secondary classroom. This has led to a non-freaked out, down-to-earth approach that empowers teachers rather than weighing them down.

If you hire Dave, expect to get past fluff and straight to what works. He advocates a non-freaked out, focused approach to literacy, and his approach perfectly aligns with everything from the Common Core to, well… common sense.

Why you should listen:
We had Dave jump-start our school year and he really has a non-freaked out, "this is just what good teachers do" approach. He is still a teacher in a classroom that resembles the average classroom. Those of us at LHS who attended his workshop (not just English teachers, not just literacy gurus) are still singing his praises. The feedback was so positive that we are having him come again for a second round.

Helpful links
Common Core State Standards Initiative
Teaching the Core: A Non-Freaked Out Approach to the Common Core State Standards
Missouri Learning Standards
Common Core Concerns
Common Core for Secondary Education (Pinterest links)

For anything to work, teachers, parents and students must work together and use their brains, I've yet to see this remotely happen for any policy, any initiative, any teacher standard. No matter what happens to these standards in years to come, the way I teach won't change and the standards, without all the hullabalooh surrounding them and where they come from and who wrote them and so on, are *queue Martha Stewart* 'a good thing' that I find it easy to get behind, as they jive with my way of thinking.

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