What does it mean to be ‘aligned to the Common Core?’

Now Common Core Aligned!

Did you know that…

As expected, with the advent of the Common Core we are seeing a lot of labeling and re-labeling of instructional materials, resources, and activities. Publishers are adding the Common Core designation to existing textbooks, resources, assessments, and professional development opportunities just as fast as they can. Educators are unpacking the Common Core and affirming to themselves that they’re already doing what the standards expect. Lots of Common Core hoopla. Lots of Common Core assurances. Lots of old educational wine in new Common Core bottles…

Plus, of course, lots of gratuitous Common Core labeling and hucksterism. Because if it’s not stamped ‘Common Core’ these days, hardly anyone’s going to look at it. 

We have the standards. And publishers’ criteria. And state and school district certification efforts. But we also have lots of confusion, including whether or not teachers are prepared or unprepared to implement the standards.

As we sort out that confusion – and as we work together to become better prepared for implementation of the Common Core juggernaut – we need to be critical consumers of both our own lessons and the vendor pitches that accompany the standards. Because if there’s anything that policy-level folks agree on, it’s usually that the Common Core is supposed to be different. Very different.

Of course if we absorb the Common Core into what we’ve always done without substantially changing anything – and this is extremely likely given our history – then things won’t be different at all. We know from past experience that standards usually don’t change instruction much. Neither do they change the day-to-day learning experiences of most children. Implementation always trumps wishes. Regardless of the rhetoric accompanying the Common Core, our historically high rates of reform assimilation indicate that what kids do in school on a daily basis is unlikely to be very different in most places. As Richard Elmore notes,

Internal accountability precedes external accountability and is a precondition for any process of improvement.

What does it mean to you for things to be ‘Common Core aligned?’ [Although Common Core chief architect / circus barker David Coleman believes that “people really don’t give a sh*t about what you feel or what you think“, I do.] Perhaps more importantly, what are you and your fellow educators doing to avoid old wine in new bottles?

P.S. Never fear. This blog post is Common Core-aligned℠. See ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8.

11 Responses to “What does it mean to be ‘aligned to the Common Core?’”

  1. I’ve actually had a running debate with myself over the title of my latest project and eBook. I’m currently thinking it should be “Mapping Media to the Common Core” rather than “Mapping Media to the Curriculum” because of these dynamics you highlight: To be relevant today, it has to have the #CCSS label.

    The ideas I am sharing in the project are good pedagogy for multiple frameworks and standards, not just CCSS. But ostensibly CCSS aligned materials have the attention of most school admins and purchasing agents today. Am I wrong in naming my project for CCSS alignment instead of choosing the more general title?

  2. As a curriculum writer in a school district that has adopted and is implementing the CCSS, I can so relate to this post! Aligning to the CCSS requires indepth curriculum study, a thorough understanding of the standards and how they build upon each other and above all support students (and their those standards. Taking the same old same old and putting a new label on it does nothing. While many strategies and practices can support implementation of the standards, if you don’t spend time really unpacking the indicators, and closely examining the language used (yes, do a close reading of those standards!) then you can use all the aligned materials you want and your students will never acheive the skills expected from the CCSS.

  3. Let’s hope this level of CCSS discussion shows up at staff meetings, and administrators’ powwows, as well.
    Key points that belong in the discussion:
    1. Good pedagogy for multiple frameworks and standards [thank you, Wes]
    2. We also have lots of confusion, including whether or not teachers are prepared or unprepared to implement the standard
    3. We know from past experience that standards usually don’t change instruction much. Neither do they change the day-to-day learning experiences of most children.

  4. As a teacher CCSS have been very confusing to my district. The confusion has been whether or not textbooks are really aligned with Common Core. We have been told not to order textbooks for at least 3 years. Companies are saying they are aligned but really all these companies have just looked what could be aligned to CCSS in their current textbooks.

  5. What if schools worked on the way that they assess students and actually align the type of assessment with the cognitive demand that it is calling for in the standard(s)? Would that begin to change things in the classroom? When have we started on the back end (assessments) vs. the front end (standards & benchmarks)?

  6. I think this is an opportunity for districts to openly share curriculum which is developed that truly aligns to CCSS. We are very conditioned to expect that professional publishing companies are going to meet our curricular needs. Certainly there will continue to be a place at the learning table for professional publishers, but that’s just ONE place. Open Educational Resources (OER) are growing, and they’ll grow even more as we encourage district leaders to contribute to these archives / create their own openly licensed archives.

    I’ve been flabbergasted by the pushback against open sharing by some of our district edtech leaders here in Oklahoma, who say “we’re not ready for that.” We need to develop and share a vision for openly sharing curriculum, where our focus is more collaborative rather than competitive between districts.

  7. Ok, I’m not a teacher. I’m just a parent. So if there is all this confusion among educational professionals about the implementation of CCSS imagine how convoluted the issue is by the time it gets to us normal folks out here trying to raise our kids and stay engaged with the educational process.

    But I do think that having a common standard (and – I hope – eventually a system that clearly and transparently maps to that set of standards) will help parents stay engaged in their kids education.

    That said – would love to see more written about integrating parents into this process. After all – he kids (and, by extension, us) are the end customers of all of this innovation.

  8. Chris, it is interesting that as a parent you want to be involed but yet education professionals realy do not know how CCSS will impact education or how it should be taught. I would be interested in your thought on this subject?

  9. Scott,

    Great post and discussion. I’ve seen people fall into that pitfall of something being labeled CCSS and thinking that it’s different and sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not.

    When I look at curriculum, any curriculum, I automatically think of 21st century learning and revise the content until it becomes a student-centered task where students show evidence of learning. When I look at Common Core, I automatically see the 21st century learning.

    However, someone else will see it from their frame of reference — We can look at the same thing and turn it into entirely different things.

    There’s a parallel between the changing pedagogy in 21st century, learner-centered classrooms and the Common Core. In my district, we spent last year focused on 21st century learning and this year on the shifts of the Common Core. In my opinion, they are tied together and we’re slowly making progress on that change from teacher-centered classrooms to learner-centered classrooms.

    We are trying to show what a Common Core classroom looks/sounds like and some of the concrete shifts that need to take place. We do so by bringing the teachers into the process to own it.

    As we look at the teaching materials we already have, we discuss what we can do with it differently (instead of discussing buying new content at this point).

    The bottom line is, we continue to focus on the 21 century, student-centered learning with the Common Core — and hopefully our community will have the awareness and understanding for what Common Core alignment means.

    Kind regards,

  10. I enjoyed reading Scott’s post and all of the thoughtful comments to it. CCSS is difficult to understand, especially at the specifics of a grade, teacher, and class of students. However, the overarching themes of CCSS are on target and students will benefit from our struggle to implement them.

    Since Scott mentioned “Great Books” in his post, let me say a bit more about our nonprofit organization. We are mission driven and for over 50 years we have helped help people become better thinkers through discussion. We thinking we were meeting most of the standards before they were written. Since we must compete with other publishers, we, like Wesley, must tell teachers that our materials are CCSS compatible and teachers tell us that they are.

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