Okay, so I’m no expert on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) yet, but here’s one awesome thing about them: they don’t attempt to dictate every minute detail of my life as a teacher.
One group of reasons that make me admire the CCSS is their “intentional design limitations.” If you look at page 6 of the document, you’ll notice an entire page devoted to describing what the standards do not cover. If you are suffering from CCSS-phobia, read these.
1. They don’t dictate methods
The CCSS are focused on what students are expected to know and be able to do in order to graduate as career- and college-ready (CCR) adults. They don’t tell teachers how to teach. I like that. If you are a gifted, interactive lecturer, you could still accomplish the CCSS without radically changing your approach, as long as your students are able to do fundamental things that literate people do.
2. They encourage content-rich curricula
If you’re a passionate history or science or technical subjects teacher who fears that you’ll have to become a reading teacher in order to follow the CCSS, fear not. Granted, the CCSS envision entire schools being committed to producing literate humans, but they also insist on “well-developed, content-rich” curricula. This means that history courses should be diving deep into history, that science courses should be intensely inquiry-driven, and technical courses should immerse students in their fields.
Now, with that being said, it’s going to be pretty hard to meet the CCSS without making sure that students are reading from a variety of sources and comprehending/using that reading to do things like argue and explain. So, when it comes to reading within your content area, yes, you will need to show students how experts (like you) read complex texts.
3. They focus on fundamentals
If school was a basketball game, the CCSS is about making sure that players can dribble a ball, sink a layup, and pass the basketball. This document was created to “articulate the fundamentals, not set out an exhaustive list or a set of restrictions that limits what can be taught.” So, choosing the style of offense you want for your basketball team or the more advanced drills you want to run in practice, that’s up to you.
Some of the best basketball teams in history have been built by coaches who stressed “boring” fundamentals while inspiring players and winning games.
May we do likewise.