Common Core Highlights from the Year

As we swing into summer and reflect on the past year, here are some highlights of the top Common Core blogs from our Network Team.

Teacher trainer, Randi Downs, wrote a blog focused on “ ‘Shifting’ to the New English Regents Exam”. She blogged, “In facilitating various dives into the test, it seems that the shifts most evident in this new assessment, at least for the Part 2 (Writing Argument) and Part 3 (Writing Analysis) pieces require the movement towards utilizing text-based answers and employing evidence from sources to inform or make an argument (Shifts 4 and 5).” To see posters of Continue reading

What Grades do Students Deserve?

During a recent conference on Grading and Assessment my thinking shifted about how we determine and report grades for our students. My grading practices in my secondary science classroom reflected how I was graded in school – how else would I grade? It was the only model I knew and saw practiced around me. Percentage grades and weighting different elements of grading (exams, quizzes, labs, homework) helped me determine which students had earned A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s and F’s. On the flip side, I believe that all students could learn what I and my colleagues determined were the essentials for our course. I would give students the opportunity to achieve mastery of those standards but I always struggled with how to reflect that effort and growth in their grades. Continue reading

Advanced/Enhanced Common Core Curriculum

Not an Easy Discussion

A discussion that must occur in school districts with the advent of the Common Core Learning Standards is how to adhere to Part 100.4d of the State Education Law.

Public school students in grade eight shall have the opportunity to take high school courses in mathematics and in at least one of the following areas: English, social studies, languages other than English, art, music, career and technical education subjects or science courses. Continue reading

Making Connections – All Over the Place

I remember fondly the day, more than 30 years ago, when the principal of the middle school in which I taught suggested that we offer a unique experience to our students and connect mathematics and science into a “magnet” course. Since we were living in a world of separate subjects, it seemed to be a stretch from what we knew. With little to go on – there was no internet that we could access to see if there were models out there – we began to seek out the places where mathematics and science informed the world. And we found that there were places to show the connections not only between those two subjects, but also among other real contexts. Continue reading

“Shifting” to the new English Regents Exam

Over the last couple of months, my colleague and I have offered a couple of workshops around the new English Regents Exam. We would be remiss if we didn’t take a step back and make the Common Core ELA Shifts, Balancing Informational and Literary Text, Knowledge in the Disciplines, Staircase of Complexity, Text-based Answers, Writing from Sources, and Academic Vocabulary a part of the conversation. In facilitating various dives into the test, it seems that the shifts most evident in this new assessment, at least for the Part 2 (Writing Argument) and Part 3 (Writing Analysis) pieces require the movement towards utilizing text-based answers and employing evidence from sources to inform or make an argument (Shifts 4 and 5). High school teachers in a recent workshop captured the essence of those shifts on these posters:

Students need to be reminded that when writing evidence-based claims, the support for those claims should always be lifted from the text. Closely reading and annotating becomes the default when approaching informational text.

Post-ItsOnce educators have clarity around the shifts in instruction required when approaching the writing required for the English regents exam, I find it helpful get immersed into student writing samples. The group of teachers with whom I worked recently did just that, sifting through student writing samples to make a determination around what students need to know and be able to do as they approach writing for this particular assessment, be it analysis or argument. This collection of “noticings” seen here on the sticky notes in the image to the right, reflect the shifts in instruction highlighted on the ELA Common Core State Standards. We noticed that students who approached the tasks with an eye on backing up everything they claim with vetted facts from the text succeed in this type of writing. Being able to make meaning from text and communicate this meaning is an essential skill for all students. Teachers need to take every opportunity to understand the ELA shifts as they support students in writing for college, career, and beyond.

Downs_Randi_WEB_1409Randi Downs
Teacher Trainer, PBL

Scaffolding for Student Success

It’s been awhile since my last blog! In that time, I have been researching, reading, thinking, learning, talking, presenting and coaching on topics such as building a guaranteed and viable curriculum, standards-based planning, formative assessment and scaffolding. As I began preparing my thoughts for what my next blog might be about, one word popped into my head. And that word is: EQUITY. For me, the concept of equity is the common thread running through the heart of all of these topics. Continue reading

Captivating Student Interest in the New Year

New Year – new goals! Every January I make plans to do something to improve my life. Sometimes it’s a pledge to move more or eat less sugar – but it’s a pledge that is always in the back of my mind throughout the year – even when I face setbacks. And, it’s a personal pledge – one that I have control over. This year, I’m home, recovering from knee surgery, and have made a pledge to do everything I can to make a full recovery. How does this lead to a blog on student engagement? Well, it got me thinking about aspects of teaching that are in the control of the individual teacher. We don’t always have control over the technical changes at school: schedules, testing times, duties, meetings, lesson plan templates, school or district initiatives, and even which students are in our classes. But…we can make a pledge to increase student engagement in our classroom – every day. That is something we have complete control over. Continue reading