Friday, March 30, 2012

Readiness Center Delivers for DESE (the State)

How best to deliver important curriculum guidance to over-booked district leaders?

That's the question we asked at the Pioneer Valley Educational Readiness Center (PERC), one of six regional centers serving Massachusetts with support from the state.

It was clear that the approach we used last year to introduce the 2011 Mass. Curriculum Frameworks-- power point presentations to crowds of 300-- would not be effective this time around. A one-size-fit-all approach can't address the present needs of most districts. Perhaps more importantly, we heard from focus groups that, "If you want us to see another power point, send it to us and we'll watch when it's convenient."

So we are doing just that-- sending out links to five state-recommended resources: Digging Deeper power points in Math and ELA, Achieve's CCSS Implementation Guide and the Model Content Frameworks in ELA and Math. And we're asking districts to view the resources (if they hadn't done so already) and come together for a discussion of what they find valuable in those resouirces and how their CCSS implementation plans are proceeeding.

We're bringing the flipped classroom to administrators!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Will you Design Units from Scratch or Borrow Them?

Al begs for high-quality curriculum. "Just tell me what to teach and I'll do it. Don't make me serve on another curriculum committee-- our most recent efforts are sitting on the shelf."

In another district, Nia attends trainings in the 2011 State Curriculum Frameworks and stays after school working with a district-wide team designing model units based on the curriculum maps created earlier in the year.

These teachers embody a larger conundrum: how will districts have maps and units aligned with the new standards in place next year? Should Al's district require him to become an expert curriculum designer so that he can assist with the process? Will the units created by Nia and her colleagues be as high-quality as the ones being built by curriculum professionals in Indiana?

I can see the value of training teachers to unpack standards and build aligned units-- they'll gain a working knowledge of the standards and be invested in the implementation of the newly constructed units. But is the end-product-- curricula of varying quality and alignment, in 393 districts across the state -- what we want?

How's your district tackling this one?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Support from the State, Part Deux

Even though some western Mass. educators scream "No way!" when they hear it, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and secondary Education (DESE) listens and responds to the needs of districts!

DESE is hiring a vendor to vet and identify exemplary curriculum maps. This seems to be a helpful response to educators who questioned the quality and usefulness of the curriculum maps highlighted in DESE's new "Diving Deeper" power point presentation.

Also on the way from DESE is direct support for districts with the curriculum mapping process. I'll share more concrete details as they become available.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

State Support for Districts?

Many western Massachusetts educators bemoan the low level of support received from the state for implementing the Common Core. Educators here look around (electronically) and see that Ohio has mapped math curricula and provided those maps to districts. And in Arizona, model curriculum and high quality tasks are being created for districts at the state level.

Nothing that matches those supports will be forthcoming in the Bay State, but some support is on the way. These supports are detailed in two power point presentations prepared by the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Each of these presentations will be rolled out by the six regional Readiness Centers. In future posts I'll provide more detail about the supports for districts outlined in the power points and how our Pioneer Valley Center, PERC, will share DESE's power points.

For now, you can view the ELA power point by clicking here and the math presentation here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From the Teacher's Perspective

In an earlier post, I wondered about the opportunities embedded in the Common Core State Standards. Now you can read about the value teachers find in the Common Core here.

Thanks to Andy Churchill for the lead!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rewarding Procrastinators

As districts craft their Common Core implementation plans, those districts that have taken a wait-and-see attitude are in a good position to benefit from the work of other states and the additional supports being offered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

States as geographically diverse as New York and Kansas are rolling out resources applicable to our implementation efforts here in Massachusetts. Curriculum exemplars, which include both complex tasks in ELA and model units in math are available through New York's website. Tools for gauging and increasing text-complexity are Kansas's contribution.

Closer to home, DESE plans to support curriculum alignment work this summer and to cull, vet, and disseminate locally-created curriculum maps that can serve as exemplars.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Massachusetts Sends Clearer Guidance to Districts

While listening in on a DESE webinar on Tuesday, I discovered that the state is providing both more direction, guidance, and support for districts working to implement the Common Core.

By viewing DESE's power point, "Diving Deeper: Implementing the 2011 Mass. Curriculum Frameworks for Math," you can read about these new developments (not yet available online; comment below and I'll send you a copy). What might be most helpful to districts is this process for "Developing a Curriculum Map:"

  1. 1.Assemble an inclusive team of teachers, curriculum leaders, etc.
  2. 2.Provide time for team to do background work to learn about the standards
  3. 3.Compare new standards to existing curriculum (map, units, materials, etc.) and identify gaps
  4. 4.Decide upon elements and format of curriculum map
  5. 5.Create draft curriculum map
  6. 6.Develop, adapt, and acquire curriculum materials and assessments as needed
 Next post: information about new supports available to districts this summer

Supporting Content-Area Teachers in Grades 7-12

Through my work in the Ludlow Public Schools, I've discovered that while most of the sixth grade content-area teachers have some training in teaching  reading and writing, the content-area teachers in grades seven and up tend not to. This is a product of the teacher licensing structure in Massachusetts, in which most sixth grade teachers carry a 1-6 certification that requires coursework in teaching literacy.

As a result, many teachers lack the training to carry out one of the central objectives of the Common Core-- teaching students to read and write critically across content areas.

In Ludlow, I'm working with Curriculum Director Diana Roy and Principal Sheryl Stanton to pair content-area teachers with ELA teachers and provide training in the use of active reading strategies that help students tackle content-area texts. We're finding Texts and Lessons for the Content Areas (Daniels and Steineke) to be extremely applicable and teacher-friendly.

What else is working out there?