This past week I had the pleasure of presenting on the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) to a large group of SUNY Plattsburgh graduate and undergraduate Education majors at the Queensbury Branch Campus. The students were bright, knowledgeable, ambitious, and curious, and their questions about implementing the Common Core as future educators were spot on. We started the four-hour session with CCLS math, and then moved on to literacy. They got it. They appreciated what the standards offer, and the instructional shifts the standards demand. They empathized with the anxiety classroom teachers have for the new assessments coming down the pipe, and in particular, the anxiety of mathematics. I was touched by the number who remained after to thank me and probe further for information on the standards, and I drove home feeling pretty darn good about the SUNY Plattsburgh Education Program.
SUNY Plattsburgh and other colleges and universities with education programs around the nation are at a turning point in teacher preparation, especially in the area of mathematics. The instructional shifts associated with literacy will be manageable, but the math shifts will require more math savvy teachers who have the confidence and self-efficacy to build and expand students’ math knowledge and skills. Math savvy teachers are desperately needed at the elementary level where the stakes are so high. How post-secondary education programs adjust programs and prepare education students for the Common Core Math Standards will be interesting and vitally important in graduating students with strong mathematical literacy, reasoning, modeling, and problem solving skills.
Beyond college, school districts must provide time and structure for focused, sustained math professional development that gets at what good math instruction looks like, the math principles underlying the pedagogy, and the six instructional shifts of Common Core Math. Districts that proactively work now in Professional Learning Communities to look at and revise their curricula, instruction, and assessments around the standards will be well ahead of the curve. There are some good resources that are evolving with the Common Core, yet educators and administrators around the nation are struggling to find what they need. As with my SUNY Plattsburgh audience, educators are most interested in finding materials and resources to bring the Common Core Standards to life in their classrooms, particularly in the area of mathematics.
In my prior blog, I spoke of some outstanding resources from the University of Arizona, PARCC, and EngageNY. This morning I viewed a webinar from the Northwest Regional Comprehension Center (NRCC) on Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, a webinar I learned about through the U.S. Dept of Education-funded Center on Instruction. Dr. Brad Findell, a member of the Mathematics Work Team for the Common Core Standards, presented on Common Core Standards implementation in rural schools, response to intervention, and implementation resources and suggestions. Dr. Findell’s presentation with PowerPoint was outstanding, as were the resources he recommended. In addition to the ones I posted in an earlier blog, his suggestions include The Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP), Common Core Videos from the Hunt Institute, Phil Daro’s SERP Institute videos, and Inside Mathematics.
People do better when they know better, and so it goes in the world of education. We can ride the Common Core State Standards and its concomitant instructional shifts successfully by focusing our efforts on developing strong mathematical foundations in our future teachers, and by providing quality professional development to those already in the classroom. There really is no choice if we hope to ready students for 21st Century success.