Monday, April 25, 2011

Common core model curriculum design begins in Massachusetts, part 1

In Marlborough, MA today 200+ teachers, administrators, district, and state personnel met to begin the design of model curriculum and embedded assessments for educators across the Commonwealth.  This initial gathering of individuals, who will spend time together over the next 3 years (till the summer of 2014), was introduced to the goals, scope and theoretical underpinnings of the "MA Curriculum Project: Building an Understanding-based Curriculum & Assessment System."

First, the goals of the project were largely defined in , but it was compelling to see the following words of the application come to life:
Principals and superintendents also identified model curricula and instructional resources as top priorities. The PreK–12 teaching and learning system will include model curricula units and lesson plans based on common standards that are aligned within and across grade levels. (p. 15)
The opening presentation demonstrated, on the one hand, a wonderful balance between the strong local quality of education in Massachusetts and the academic freedom of individual teachers, and on the other, a desire to bring the collective power of a statewide initiative to empower districts, schools, and teachers with resources and models to implement the new Massachusetts frameworks.  Furthermore, it creates, finances, and equips a group of individuals from across the state at all levels of education for the hard and time-consuming work of alignment "within and across grade levels," so that districts, schools, and teacher's can experience the new frameworks as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Second is the scope of these curriculum design committees.  In general each discipline (mathematics, history/social studies, ELA, and science) will produce 25 model instructional units with 25 associated embedded assessments for a total of 100 model units and 100 embedded assessments.

Third is the theoretical framework that Massachusetts will be using to achieve its goal of providing a coherent underpinning both for the model units but also the broad contours of how curriculum is understood:  Understanding by Design.  For the entirety of the project (till 2014), Jay McTighe will be supporting the development of the "macro" architecture of essential understandings and questions into which the model units will reside and reflect, and how these units can cohere K to 12 within a discipline.  Jay also introduced the idea of developing what he calls "cornerstone assessments" that provide "authentic" and engaging moments where students have the opportunity to embody and fulfill the essential concepts and practices of each discipline (more of this and examples in part 3).

Part 2 to this post will delve deeper into the details of the meeting, specifically as Web 2.0 applications were discussed as part of the curriculum design process and in what ways technology will be harnessed to disseminate the model units (the creation of PBS MediaLearning was announced--a joining of teachers' domain and PBS).

Part 3 to this post will provide a description as well as the organizing visuals and maps for the project. I hope to have those to share within the next two weeks.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Librarians link common core to Web 2.0

Scouring the web for all things related to the common core and its implementation, I happened upon the American Association of School Librarians crosswalks to the common core.  While math does get left out of the picture, the spirit of their crosswalks is exactly the type of thinking I have been looking for as my school moves forward in its implementation.  Here is an example of one crosswalk by the ALA:

C9-10RS/TS7 Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.
1.2.3 Demonstrate creativity by using multiple resources and formats.
2.1.6 Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.
3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess.
4.3.2 Recognize that resources are created for a variety of purposes.

The common core standards are "linked" to the American Association of Librarians standards for 21st century learning and as a result the common core standards start to take on a meaning relevant to digital learners.  I hope, and please hold me to it, as the work of implementation proceeds in my part of the education landscape that I can narrate how we made these standards come to life for a 21st century learner.

I am interested to know if anyone out there has worked to move their classroom,  school, or district to take the spirit of these 21st century learners and crosswalk them to the common core math standards.
I hope to start moving in this direction in the closing months of this school year and over the summer.
I'll post how we choose to organize and structure our curriculum 5-12 and welcome current and future feedback on this endeavor. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

An opportunity for design being lost?

Will a new set of standards create an opportunity to reimagine our curriculum in its overall design (a la UDL) in order to be accessible to a multitude of different learners interacting and generating content in a multitude of different ways?  Will both the content standards as well as the standards for mathematical practice be intertwined in such a way that we actually start inspiring learners and mathmeticians?  Will all of these reflect the new demands of digital literacy and the power of Web 2.0? One answer to this (from a key curriculum press blog on the common core standards) from a review of the textbooks displayed at the NCTM conference in Indianapolis this past week is NO.   Key Curriculum Press says the new textbooks stamped with "common core" on the front take the following two approaches to implementing the core:

  1. Textbooks with new covers and the same exact lessons contained between the covers.  Sure, the state standards that were previously cited are now replaced with Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  But, the lessons and assignments are the same as last year’s edition.
  1. Textbooks with new covers and additional lessons interspersed in the book, but the new lessons have no connection to the rest of the material."
Obviously a textbook publisher looks at books as ways to embody and deliver these standards (and it seems that this is being poorly done), but how will these standards encourage us to review the overall design of what we are doing and how can they come to be part of 21st century digital students' lives?  This is an opportunity being lost not just by textbooks companies not revisiting their products in a serious way, but by many others who are not redesigning these standards in a way that is web 2.0 informed.

Take for example this recent posting of how to embody the standards of mathematical practice.
"1. After presenting a problem and having students briefly think about it themselves, they discuss their solution pathway and accompanying reasoning with a partner. Their ideas may be validated or tweaked, but are always recognized.
2. As students solve the problem, allow them to seek advice and help from their partner. This builds a sense of confidence and teamwork.
3. After solving the problem, invite students to share their results and reasoning in small groups. This reflective practice allows students to revisit and justify their thinking, learn the approaches of others, and identify relationships between different solution pathways."
This example of implementation talks about collaboration, partnership, and sharing work, minus the central component of how students and we now communicate, share knowledge and collaborate--e-mail, google, facebook, twitter, diigo, youtube, etc.

It is hard not to feel like an opportunity might be slipping away as we re-look at our curriculum.  Stay tuned for the coming posts as I attempt to narrate how one school tries to retain the best of traditional and non-traditional modes of delivery as well as integrate technology into our revamped curriculum.  We are taking these new standards as a moment to start reimagining our curriculum and to not lose out on the opportunity this moment allows.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Will we take this unique opportunity of shared standards to collaborate, reflect, and innovate together?
Wordle: Common Core Standards in Mathematics Wordle: Common Core State Standards 3
How will math teachers across the 44 states who have adopted the new Common Core State Mathematics Standards bring them to life? Will individual teacher's work it out in their classrooms but leave the person across the hall outside of the conversation? Will one district work toward a solutions while others struggle to find a way forward in their schools? Or, Will we take this unique opportunity of shared standards to collaborate, reflect, and innovate together? The hope of adding the little numbers "2.0" to the title of this blog is to introduce the power of personal learning networks, social media, and online tools into the conversation on the Common Core Standards. My hope is that by harnessing communication mediums like twitter (see feed at left), social bookmarking sites (like Diigo to the right), visualization tools (like Wordle used above*), and blogs (like this one!), to name only a fraction, will allow us, as math educators, to leverage the web to aid in the planning and implementation of the Common Core. Let's start talking!

*These Wordles contain every word in the Common Core Mathematics Standards, and the size of the word indicates the frequency of its use.