This summer I have led about a dozen Common Core workshops for social studies teachers in the New York metropolitan area. At these workshops, teachers consistently ask the same three questions.
1. Is Common Core required?
2. Are teachers being evaluated based on Common Core?
3. What does a Common Core/Danielson lesson plan look like?
The answers to these questions are both simple and complicated.
In states that have adopted the national Common Core Standards teaching to the standards is required, it is just not clear what that means. The standards enumerate skill goals, but not curriculum, not specific lesson plans, and not approaches to teaching. They also do not specify how student achievement and teacher performance will be evaluated.
Under Race to the Top, the federal program that provides states with grant money to persuade them to adopt the Common Core standards, state education departments are moving to implement Common Core by developing, either individually or along with governmental and corporate partners, high-stakes tests for students and standardized teacher evaluations. In a very real sense, teaching to the Common Core standards will not be required until these tests are developed and in place, but eventually it will be.
One of the largest test-development groups is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). It describes itself as a consortium of 20 states (the number varies as state education departments enter or leave the group) that will develop kindergarten through 12th grade assessments in English and mathematics. PARCC received a $186 million grant from Race to the Top to create high-stakes standardized tests that are supposed to be ready during the 2014-15 school year. It is not clear how states and school districts will evaluate students in other content areas. And although student scores on these tests will be part of a package used to assess teacher performance, it will be up to individual states or school districts to decide how much weight the exams receive in evaluations.
The PARCC website claims its assessments will be "tightly aligned to the Common Core State Standards" and that "These are shifts the Standards require of teachers and students." On the ELA tests, the standards and the tests "require regular practice with complex text and its academic language"; "emphasize reading and writing grounded in evidence from text"; and understanding "content rich non-fiction." The math standards and tests will promote "focus," "coherence," and rigor" as students develop "conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application."
PARCC estimates that it will cost $29.50 per student per year for computer-based administration of the assessment. For New York City with approximately 1.1 million students, 75% of whom will be tested, the reading and writing tests alone will cost $25 million, but the cost of providing computers with online access and will be astronomical. Los Angeles, the 2nd largest school district in the United States signed a $30 million contract with Apple to buy iPads for every student in 47 schools so they can complete Common Core tests. Eventually the district will pay Apple hundreds of millions of dollars for iPads for its 655,000 students. The district is paying $678 per device, which is more than the iPads cost if purchased individually through Apple stores. The iPads will be pre-loaded with educational software, but the sale price does not include a keyboard, which will be necessary when students have to write essays.
Nationally, there are almost 100 million school children in the United States. If 75 million children are tested yearly at $30 each, the bill will be $2.25 billion a year, not counting the cost of the hardware and software. No wonder the technology and education service companies are counting their profits.
Well hidden on the PARCC website are the corporate partners who are already profiting from the PARC assessments. Education First and Achieve are both involved in workshops providing that will help states gauge "the strength of their implementation plans and to illustrate how to improve them." Achieve and the Education Delivery Institute (EDI) also produced a PARCC workbook.
According to its website, Education First is in the business of selling school districts Strategic-Planning and Counsel; Research and Public Policy Analysis; Communications and Advocacy; and Grantmaking Effectiveness. Jennifer Vranek, its founding partner, previously was an advocacy grantmaker for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Achieve is a not-for-profit advocacy group whose Board of Directors has ties to Intel, Prudential Financial, IBM, Battelle, a global research and development company, and a long list of major foundations.
EDI is another not-for-profit with ties to the world's major for-profit companies. Its Board of Directors includes its founder, Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Adviser at Pearson Education where he advises the British-based publishing mega-giant on the "development of products and services" that Pearson will sell to "fast-growing developing economies." Sir Michael Barber has also been a lead speaker at PARCC Institutes.
But the big winners appear to be ETS and Pearson. According to the PARCC website:
The first phase of item development contracts were awarded to ETS and Pearson. ETS' proposal can be found here and Pearson's can be found here. - Phase I of Item Development began in the fall of 2012 and will be complete in late summer 2013. The second phase will begin as soon as Phase II is complete in late summer 2013 and run through late summer 2014.- The contracts for Phase II will be awarded to one or more of the Phase I contractors, based on the quality of work in the first year.
Major problems facing teachers are the vagueness of the standards and the new "improved" assessments. In addition, districts are moving ahead with their evaluations of teachers using new guidelines aligned with the Common Core standards even though the tests and supporting curriculum are not in place.
One of the more commonly used rubrics for the evaluation of teachers is the Danielson Framework for Teaching developed by Charlotte Danielson and marketed by the Danielson Group of Princeton, New Jersey. The New York State Education Department has decided that this rubric will be used to evaluate all New York City teachers starting in Fall 2013. Danielson is the default teacher evaluation framework in New Jersey and Illinois; it has been adopted for statewide use in Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho and South Dakota; and was approved for use in Florida and Washington. In addition, it is being used in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Memphis City Schools, Pittsburgh Public Schools, and fifteen Florida school districts.
But a big problem here is that no one can figure out what a Danielson lesson plan based on achieving national Common Core standards actually looks like.
As a teacher educator, I am also being pressed to prepare student teachers for a similar performance evaluation using edTPA, a slightly different rubric that was developed at Stanford University and is being put into place by Pearson, the mega-giant publisher.
To assist teachers grappling with what a Common Core/Danielson lesson plan looks like and student teachers preparing for edTPA, I met with members of the Hofstra University New Teachers Network to develop this sample activity-based lesson plan. It is geared to secondary school social studies, what we teach, but we believe it is easily adaptable for other grade-levels and subject areas. I want to thank Jessica Cartusciello of Island Trees High School in Levittown, NY, Michael Pezone of the High School for Law Enforcement in Queens, NY, Ashley Cannone of Locust Valley (NY) High School, and Louis Tolentino of the Lawrence-Woodmere Academy.
Unlike material prepared by the education-corporations and their not-for-profit allies, this lesson plan is free for anyone to use.
ACTIVITY-BASED LESSON ADJUSTED TO COMMON CORE, EDTPA, AND DANIELSON DOMAINS
A. What LEARNING OBJECTIVES/ MAIN IDEAS do students need to know (maximum of 3)?
B. What COMMON CORE skills will be introduced or reinforced during this lesson?
C. Which content area STANDARDS are addressed in this lesson?
D. What academic and content specific VOCABULARY is introduced in this lesson?
E. What materials (e.g., ACTIVITY SHEET, MAP, SONG) will I present to students?
F. What activity, if any, will I use to settle students and establish a context (DO NOW)?
G. How will I open the lesson (MOTIVATION) and capture student interest?
H. What additional INDIVIDUAL/TEAM/FULL CLASS ACTIVITIES will I use to help students discover what they need to learn (suggest three)? If these are group activities, how will student groups be organized?
I. How will I DIFFERENTIATE INSTRUCTION with MULTIPLE ENTRY POINTS for diverse learners?
J. What H.O.T. (Higher Order Thinking) questions will I ask to engage students in analysis and discussion?
K. How will I ASSESS student mastery of the skills, content, and concepts taught in this lesson?
L. How will I bring the lesson to CLOSURE (SUMMARY QUESTION)?
M. How will I reinforce and extend student learning?
1. CLASSROOM APPLICATION / FOLLOW-UP:
2. ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES:
N. What topics come next?
2. DAY AFTER:
O. How do I evaluate this lesson?
3. AREAS TO WORK ON:
4. THINGS TO CHANGE: