SBG: Common Core

Our school recently received a massive grant for school improvement. There are only 2 small schools in Illinois who received this grant and we are one of them (less than 200 students in high school). If we can do this, if we can turn our scores around and make substantial AYP progress, it's likely we will receive national recognition. As a result, we have adopted the turnaround model which means we have employed a turnaround administrator, 3 instructional coaches, and a large amount of change. Change + teachers = not the easiest thing ever.

We have already started completing and submitting 5-step lesson plans each week. Coaches are rotating classrooms making observations in any classroom they want to and meeting with teachers to suggest new teaching strategies and the like. Soon we will be accumulating and analyzing tons of data in order to make better decisions for students. Starting with math, the coaches are starting to align curriculum to ACT but more importantly, the newly adopted Common Core standards from high school down to elementary. Hopefully this will better guide instruction as well as eliminate knowledge gaps from one grade level to the next.

Back in September, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with my instructional coach for two entire days building a Common Core/ACT College Readiness Standards SBG skill list.

First of all, I'm not a fan of Common Core. I think the language is still vague and complicated. I don't know what is so hard about writing things in a way that makes sense to the average person. Also, I hope in the future they create a document with examples or sample assessment questions to better clarify what exactly each concept means. The ACT college readiness standards are much more clear cut and practical and I had just gotten accustomed to them when the CC curve ball hit. These lists are prioritized based on what is assessed by the ACT since a Common Core test won't show up for a few years (if at all). Since all of this work should have been done this summer but couldn't be (thanks, state of Illinois for all the 'delayed' funding), the pacing guide is for next year and this is sort of a transitional year that will be messy.

I really liked the way my coach helped me create this. She printed the CC standards on colored paper and cut it into strips. I went through and picked out what I considered to be my priorities for Algebra 1 and Geometry, based on the topics assessed on ACT and their College Readiness Skills. Then we had 4 pieces of paper that had each quarter written at the top. We put the standards in an order that made sense and separated it into each quarter by what we thought was doable. We taped the colored paper down and thus we had a rough draft pacing chart.

As I've mentioned many times once or twice, I am an algebra girl. Geometry is not my cup of tea. The algebra was much easier for me to sequence and more closely aligned to what I've already been teaching. Unfortunately. CC is leaps and bounds above the baby geometry I am teaching. Which isn't a bad thing, but somewhat sobering. This year I will be teaching things I've never taught before or in fact, have never even learned or heard of myself. (dilations, density dissection arguments, Cavalieri’s principle, and informal limit arguments....what??) CC is HEAVY on transformations which I enjoy but haven't done since high school and have never taught or seen taught in any capacity.

I will be stretched this year. I already am. But that's another post...

While I was incredibly excited to work with someone who 1) loves math 2) has 30 years of experience teaching geometry 3)could help me, it was not exactly the sbg  high I was anticipating. Our pacing guide has 2-3 units per quarter and 2-3 objectives per unit which gives me about 10 objectives to teach in 9 weeks. Which sounds quit simple actually. The problem is, I need a list to tell me what I need to cover each day in order to accomplish those things in 9 weeks. I need a list people, that's just how I operate. Next year, I think it will be much easier to take your advice on chunking things and creating topics but this year I have felt stranded without a specific day-to-day list. Thank God for my coach. It has been so, so helpful to have a real live breathing person there to listen and strategize with who keeps me from boiling over or melting down and who has tons of her own resources to share. Plus, she gives hugs and chocolate.

We have now been working together utilizing backwards design to create assessments first and then designing what is needed each day to work up to that level. Backwards design is something I have wanted to do since before I started teaching but is not something I could wrap my head around and do on my own. It is near impossible for me to project my thinking into the future in that way and so her help has been miraculous. We are creating small units and I am creating my own lists, which is my lifeline.

I started this post with the intention of pasting in my lists of standards but it is already too long so I will link to them here and here and post them in separate entries for your viewing pleasure.

1 comment:

  1. I went through a rather similar exercise today (setting up the pacing for our Algebra I course based on the CC standards)! We're a relatively small private K-8 school (fewer than 100 middle school students). I didn't make the actual slips of paper, although I've done that in the past for other classes. It's nice to at least have a bit of autonomy when setting up the pacing, instead of having it dictated by a school district.