This past weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Denver and being a part of the Student Achievement Partners Core Advocacy Convening. I left the weekend with several thoughts and ideas as well as some new resources that I feel will help me in my professional development. The single biggest impression that I take away from my weekend is that there are a lot of extremely talented, dedicated, and energetic people who are working very hard to make high quality education a reality for all the students of this country. These educators, across the country, are advancing the progress of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and are laying the groundwork for the full-scale roll out that is taking place around the country.
Rather than go into great detail on everything that I heard over the weekend I thought I would provide some snippets of my takeaways with a little commentary on each:
- To implement any big change institutions need two major starting points; a strong foundation to build upon and a vision of what is being built.
- This is something that I certainly feel can be improved upon in Michigan. It seems to me that Michigan districts and schools are in the unfortunate position of being for an idea but without the big picture of what that idea will look like nor the foundation to build it upon. This is certainly an area of need for Michigan schools as we look to improve and one that I intend to talk more on in future posts.
- When challenged by parents and naysayers about why math looks different now or why elementary students are being asked to cite evidence I reference back to my previous statement about laying a strong foundation. What is that foundation being laid to form? The easy answer is a college and career ready young man or woman capable of critical thinking, problem solving, and logic application.
- Common Core literacy and mathematics is about more than coming up with an answer; it is about the development of an idea and being able to replicate a process under a different set of conditions. Yes, this looks different to parents than the way they learned, but that is the point! What we were doing was great, but the world has changed and with it, so have what we are asking of our high school graduates. In education we can control our targets and standards, we cannot control what the world and its many changes.
- Rigor does not mean hard, but rather extremely thorough, exhaustive and accurate.
- What scares people about the word “rigor” as it applies to education is that it requires real thought and a deeper level of understanding that most people are not accustomed to. This is a change from the status quo and any time the status quo is challenged there is resistance. I would argue that the status quo is an illusion.
- When working with others we should “collaborate to calibrate”.
- My favorite quote from the weekend. Nothing we do in this profession should be done on an individual basis because what we do ultimately should benefit all. Why are we making changes and implementing a massive educational shift? Answer, to better the lives of our students. If that is the case, collaboration is essential to develop the best possible resources. Within that cycle we calibrate and re-calibrate as needed because the collective understanding of all is greater than the individual understanding of one.
I was inspired throughout my weekend by the work, dedication, and passion that people have for education. I met some wonderful colleagues that are doing their part to improve the lives of students. We still have a long way to go as our country starts putting in the shifts of the Common Core State Standards, but I am confident that the right people are leading the charge. The work isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t be because if we are setting a goal for high rigor and greater depth then we need to be developing in that same manner. There is, and will continue to be, resistance as the status quo is challenged. Ultimately, though, the work is too important and the stakes too high for failure. Educators will collaborate and calibrate and networks and resources will be developed and students will be better for it.
I walk away from my experience in Denver knowing this to be true.