Thursday, December 27, 2012

Common Core: The Most Important Thing in the 2013 Classroom

I continue to be astonished by the education community. After all of the years, decades even, you'd think I'd no longer shake my head, but then I have to remember that we are not all fortunate enough to work in particular areas and have certain insight and there are times I, no doubt, sound as ill-informed, even as dumb, as some of the published professionals.

The object of my frustration today? Herewith: a promising article titled "What High School Students Should Expect in 2013."  Sounds good, right?

According Kelsey Sheehy, an education reporter, students and their parents should expect first and foremost more blended learning. In actuality, I have no grumps with this. In fact, Sheehy makes a really good point when she says educators are, and I hope this is true, going to step back "from 'shiny device syndrome' and evaluate how to best use the technology acquired over the past year."

Technology used to come in waves. Now it seems that new technology is introduced constantly so educators (and everyone else) are barraged by the "latest and greatest." How to choose? What to choose? Those remain challenging questions for educators with limited funds and with limited time to learn how to use those technologies and, most importantly, figure out how to use them effectively in the classroom. Remember laser disks? Anyone? I know educators who scooped those up because of the promise for potential impact. Huge investment. Virtually no return. Educators and their administrators have to be particular about how they invest their limited funds because not only do they have to make sure those new gizmos make a difference in student learning, but they have to be able to explain to parents and board members why they don't if they don't. Never mind that the technology itself never makes the difference; it's always, always, always, always the teacher who makes the difference, even if it's only to give students permission and opportunity to figure out how to use something for their learning because there is learning in that problem solving, which is, by the way, a Common Core thing.  So if the teacher doesn't know how to use the technology effectively in the classroom, then there will be little or no impact.

The second big diff in the classroom for 2013, according to Sheehy, is the flipped classroom. Really? That's got to be because there are so many late adopters who haven't figured out that the flipped classroom party is over for a lot of educators. But then I started doing a bit of research because I don't like to look too stupid this early in the morning. Lo and behold! many recent articles on the flipped classroom.

I confess to being a complete curmudgeon about the flipped classroom, but mostly because it's not really all that new and while there are lots of ways to make it work well, there are as many if not more ways for it to go wrong. Two really powerfully important factors? Parents and an environment at home in which learning can take place. This infographic only serves to support my thinking, but I'll blog about that later. And, as Mark Fydenberg notes, the flipped classroom has gone to be done right to be effective. The flipped classroom is not necessarily better and it sure isn't easier for the teacher.

The third big diff for the 2013 classroom is Common Core. Third. Writes Sheehy, "The Common Core State Standards don't officially go into effect until fall 2014, but districts are already rolling them out and will continue to do so in 2013." Yes, and some forward-thinking districts that understand implementing something of this magnitude takes a lot of time and a lot of work started their efforts two years ago. This school year, 2012-2013, is an implementation year and next school year, 2013-2014, is the transition year so their teachers and their students are ready for the actual implementation of Common Core in 2014. Because the Standards can be in effect now. Today. It's the first Common Core State Standards assessment that goes into effect in 2014 and Ms. Sheehy should know that.

My belated disclaimer: I work for the Center for College & Career Readiness, the non-profit arm of The Common Core Institute. I get to work with schools and districts around the country who are implementing Common Core now or who have been implementing Common Core for a couple of years. And this is what I see: educators who are doing Common Core implementations now also recognize that the flipped classroom is a strategy and that technology can be used in a variety of ways to help students achieve and develop critical skills and proficiency as well as knowledge they need to be successful in college and in the work place.

So while Ms. Sheehy makes some good points, the emphasis, I believe needs to be on the Common Core. Educators at all levels and capabilities need to know about Common Core, need to understand what it is and how it looks and can look in the classroom, as do parents and board members.

Common Core is not the solution to all educational ills, but as I talk with teachers who have been in the classroom for decades and educators who have been working with teachers and administrators and students for decades, one thing I've seen consistently is a burgeoning excitement about Common Core.

My opinion is that if Common Core isn't the most important and significant thing all teachers and students (and parents and board members) see in the classroom in 2013, it should be.

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