Common Core Blog

A Resource Guide to Common Core Standards Tools

March 26th, 2014

Common Core Opposition: A Dangerous Game of Chicken

Common Core Standards Tennessee GeorgiaBy Cameron Pipkin

Playing a game invented by drunk teenagers is nothing new in American politics, but how often does political chicken really end up in a head-on collision?

Not very, a fact that was confirmed in Common Core battles waged last week in Georgia and Tennessee—two states where only days ago politicians on either side of the Common Core conflict were busy barreling toward each other, full-throttle, like angsty 16 year olds in souped-up Buicks.

Over the last few weeks, each state saw anti-Common Core legislation pass through one congressional chamber (the Senate in Georgia and the House in Tennessee), all accompanied by proclamations that the Common Core was as good as dead.

And behold the results:

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March 18th, 2014

How to Teach Math with Facebook

Eighth Grade Common Core Standards Math Lesson PlanSimplifying Exponents: Common Core in the Classroom Series

By Cameron Pipkin

School Improvement Network just released a new series of Common Core in the classroom resources, including this eighth-grade Common Core Standards math lesson plan, which does a great job in engaging students in critical thinking as they learn to simplify exponents using a paper version of Facebook:



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February 10th, 2014

Amazing Shadow Puppet App for Teaching Writing

common core standards sixth grade ELA literacy lessonStudents love it!

This may be my favorite Common Core-aligned lesson plan yet (Common Core Standards sixth grade ELA literacy lesson). Check out how teacher Monica Burns makes fun, inventive use of shadow puppets and digital technology to teach ELA literacy.

By Cameron Pipkin

This lesson is aligned to Common Core standards:

CCRA.W.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

CCRA.SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

To begin this lesson...

Common Core Lesson Plans - Downloadable and Ready-to-Use

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January 9th, 2014

Meeting the Challenges of the New Common Core Math Assessments

common core standards PARCC math assessment shiftsI recently worked with some very knowledgeable and experienced mathematics teachers. We talked about how teaching one unit under the new standards would prepare kids for high school, college, and the real world better than a year under the old ones.

By Deia Sanders

We also discussed how a student could pass a mathematics standard, or even a test without actually knowing how to complete the skill being tested. We trained students that in a multiple-choice test, the answer was already there. As teachers, we would say that we wanted the students to work it out, but in the end if they forgot everything they learned in class, we would tell them to just start trying your options in the multiple choice and see which one works.

For example, here are some practice questions from the current Mississippi state test, MCT2:

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January 8th, 2014

Common Core Standards Privacy: New PARCC Security Guidelines

common core standards parcc security guidelinesIn the face of ever-more strident opposition to the Common Core (including quite a few states hedging on assessments and pulling out of the consortia), the Partnership for Assessment Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) has released “PARCC Data Privacy & Security Policies,” a new set of regulations that effectively hand control of student data and student data sharing over to the states. 

By Cameron Pipkin

PARCC explains the policies in a document released on December 5, 2013:

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December 17th, 2013

Edgar Allan Poe: A Reading and Writing Lesson Plan

common core standards 6th grade writing lesson

This is a multi-day Common Core Standards 6th grade writing lesson in which students are asked answer prediction questions periodically throughout the reading. As a final activity, students enter into a directed conversation and writing activity in which they compose a response to the narrative in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” This response takes one of two forms: either an acrostic poem or a comic strip. This works well as a Halloween-themed lesson or to kick off a mystery unit. 

By Cameron Pipkin

Aligned to the following Common Core Standards

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December 10th, 2013

Pythagorean Theorem Lesson Aligned to the Common Core Standards

pythagorosThis Pythagorean theorem lesson aligned to the Common Core Standards comes from math teacher Megel Barker. It does a pretty good job of connecting  math to objects in students’ lives, and should help increase engagement.

By Cameron Pipkin

This Pythagorean theorem lesson aligned to the Common Core Standards is aligned to CCSS.Math.Content.8.G.B.7...






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November 26th, 2013

Common Core: What It Is… And Isn’t

common core what it is and what it isn'tThey aren’t a list of inappropriate books or reading assignments. They aren’t worksheets. They aren’t homework.

By Deia Sanders

I recently read an editorial in an educational journal that said “CCSS is not a curriculum. There is a difference between standards and curriculum, and people who don’t understand the difference should not be leading public debate on the topic.” I couldn’t agree more. But the fact is that elected officials with no educational experience, as well as concerned citizens, suddenly have huge opinions on a set of standards that appear to be based on everything except the standards themselves. To help clear the air, let me explain what the Common Core Standards (CCSS) are, and are not...

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October 30th, 2013

A Glimpse into the Future of the Common Core

glimpse into the future of the Common CoreIf your state has adopted the Common Core Standards, it’s likely that you and your colleagues are just now taking the first steps down a long road that you’ll be walking for years to come. What lies at the end of that road is still uncertain.

By Cameron Pipkin

But did you know that you’re not the first group to tackle the Common Core Standards? A handful of pioneering states and districts began implementing the Standards years ago, and by now have collected Common Core assessment data that provides a glimpse into the kinds of results you might expect to see from your state’s Common Core assessment efforts...

I predict we’ll see moderately sharp drops in proficiency rates on average, across the country, with slow recoveries in year two. Don’t expect things to even out for a few years. However, I really do believe that in the end, Common Core will raise the level of achievement in the US. It will just take time.

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October 23rd, 2013

Dozens of Algebraic Equation Lesson Plans, Ready to Use, and Common Core Aligned

Sixth Grade Common Core Standards Math LessonsLooking for sixth grade Common Core Standards math lessons?

By Cameron Pipkin

I was sorting through some reources on Learnzillion the other day and came across a neat set of videos that walk students through working with algebraic expressions, all aligned to the Common Core Standards. These would be great to show in class, have students take home, or just watch for tips on teaching these topics. Here are three of my favorites:

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October 21st, 2013

Creating 21st Century Superheroes: 11th and 12th Grade Common Core Writing Lesson

eleventh and twelfth grade Common Core Standards ELA writing lesson planI love this eleventh and twelfth grade Common Core Standards ELA writing lesson plan from Joan Upell, School Library Coordinator of the South Dakota State Library. I’m willing to bet that no matter where and who you teach, your kids will love it too.

By Cameron Pipkin

As a comic book aficionado from way back, I was excited when I dug up this wonderful eleventh and twelfth grade Common Core Standards ELA writing lesson plan from the AASL Lesson Plan Database. It was written as a capstone project in a “comic book as literature” unit, but could be used by any educator interested in teaching problem/solution writing to high school students. 

And the best thing about it—this particular eleventh and twelfth grade Common Core Standards ELA writing lesson plan is aligned to 31 Common Core Standards!

Common Core Lesson Plans - Downloadable and Ready-to-Use

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October 8th, 2013

Free Online Common Core Implementation Course from Stanford

free online Common Core Standards courseThere’s still time to register for the free online Common Core Standards course at Stanford.

By Cameron Pipkin

I know that everyone’s busy, but if you have time I’d really recommend taking this free online Common Core Standards course for implementation from Stanford’s department of education. The whole thing is online, and of course, it’s free. This is an awesome resource. I hope as many of you as possible can manage to clear out a little time between October 21 and December 9 to take this.

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September 30th, 2013

Common Core Standards Elementary Writing Rubric

Common Core Standards Elementary Writing RubricCheck out this Common Core Standards elementary writing rubric. The rubric featured is for the 2nd grade, but if you go to the link I provide below, you’ll find rubrics for all grades.

By Cameron Pipkin

I’ve received a pretty overwhelming response to the writing rubric that I posted a few months ago. Day after day, and month after month, more readers visit that post than any other page I’ve put up.

But it’s occurred to me that there might be a few of you out there in need of more than what I’ve provided so far. My last post was geared specifically to secondary students, but as we know, teenagers aren’t the only ones out there learning to write. Their younger counterparts need guidance too—maybe even more.

After searching far and wide, I’ve found what I think is the best library of Common Core Standards elementary writing rubrics on the web, courtesy of the Delaware DOE. Here’s what they have for second grade students, just to pull an example:

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September 26th, 2013

Common Core Education in Muddy Waters

Common Core EducationBy Debra Myers

What’s your take on the Common Core Standards?

Issues are not always clear since the waters have been muddied by allegations of government involvement, loss of academic freedom, and risks to individual privacy. Contrast this with praise for higher standards, state-by-state alignments, and internationally bench-marked education that the Core has received and it can be hard to decide what is the truth about the Standards.  

To help clarify public perceptions about the Common Core, School Improvement Network recently conducted a national survey of educators and also commissioned a national telephone survey of parents in order to gain insight from these two major stakeholders. The survey findings were released last week and I want to share a few results that I find encouraging plus some that disturb me.

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September 10th, 2013

Gut Check--This Is How Your Colleagues Feel the First Day of School

Back to SchoolBy Debra Myers

September. One word that brings back memories of the first day of school, those too-early mornings overloaded with exhilaration and panic.

School Improvement Network recently asked educators to identify some of those anxieties and obstacles that they encounter as they go back-to-school, as well as several of their favorite effective practices, and best resources for implementing their ideas.




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August 19th, 2013

Common Core Research and Writing Project: Elementary

Common Core Standards ELA-Literacy W.K.7 Lesson PlanBy Cameron Pipkin

Looking for a Common Core Standards ELA-Literacy.W.K.7 lesson plan? The transcript below outlines an excellent lesson plan by Maggie Tompkins, a kindergarten teacher at Shiloh Point Elementary School in Cumming, GA.

ELA-Literacy.W.K.7: “Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).”

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August 12th, 2013

4 Steps for Teaching Elementary Students How to Write

ELA-Literacy W.K.2 Lesson PlanBy Cameron Pipkin

Searching for a lesson plan for the Common Core English language arts standard W.K.2 (ELA-Literacy W.K.2 lesson plan)? The following comes from Maggie Tompkins, a Kindergarten teacher at Shiloh Elementary School in Cumming Georgia:

Ms. Tompkins executes the ELA-Literacy W.K.2 lesson plan in stages, but before any of the stages begin, the students have to research their topic. There are lots of fantastic resources appropriate to kindergarten-aged children that provide more than just narrative, but information on a topic.

Common Core Lesson Plans - Downloadable and Ready-to-Use

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July 29th, 2013

Next Generation Science Standards Adoption

Next Generation Science Standards AdoptionWe’re finally seeing some real movement on the Next Generation Science Standards—a kind of Common Core Standards for science. Just thought I’d pass this news your way.

As reported by Julia Lawrence in Education News:

The Next Generation Science Standards released this April have been approved for adoption by education officials in at least five states in their entirety, despite the fact that they include topics that have drawn controversy in the past: climate change and evolution. Lauren Morello of Scientific American reports that the standards, which are an attempt at the first major overhaul of US science curriculum in 15 years, were developed by a group representing 26 state education authorities as well as science and education-related non-profits.

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July 26th, 2013

Common Core: Creating Problem Solvers

common core problem solverTeaching and learning looks different from when previous generations were in school, so I understand the parents who call with this issue. What they do not realize is that the reason they are unable to make sense of what their child is doing is because they only learned one way to solve problems.

by Deia Sanders

When I think back to my days of being a student in school I remember if we were learning multiplication, we memorized the facts, we worked a worksheet of multiplication problems, and when we had practiced enough we got timed to see how fast we could recite or write our multiplication facts. If I missed some problems, it had nothing to do with my understanding of a concept or process; it was a lack of an ability to memorize. 

We are now at a shift in education. We no longer focus on math being memorization and a toolbox of tricks. We now focus on problem solving, number sense, and having a conceptual understanding of the skill or process of solving. When students begin to multiply they see the connection to addition.

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June 18th, 2013

Common Core Standards Myth Buster: Federal Takeover?

common core standards myth busterBy Cameron Pipkin

Finally the TRUTH! The Common Core Is Far from a Federal Takeover, but a Reassertion of States Rights.

That 46 headed beast (well, 45 1/2) that is the Common Core is all over the news these days, due in large part to a single, irrepressible talking point: the alleged federal takeover of American schools. Politicians and a few media-members-gone-berserk are mostly to blame for this, having filled the American imagination with pablum, invoking images of storm troopers busting down grade school doors, indoctrinating children in little socialist hatcheries and collecting blood.

The truth is that the groups involved in writing the Standards have made a point to keep the federal government out of their work from very early on. The feds have been the only group excluded from writing the Common Core. That’s why the Standards were not commissioned or written by any officer of the federal government. The real story behind the Common Core is much less sinister than many are making it out to be, and much more favorable to state rights.

This is what really happened.

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June 12th, 2013

Common Core Standards Third-Grade Writing Lesson

common core standards third grade writing lessonBy Cameron Pipkin

“Delicious, Tasty, Yummy: Enriching Writing with Adjectives and Synonyms”

Common Core Standards third-grade writing lesson plan from, and authored by Sharon Faulkner of Andover, Massachusetts.

In the spirit of progress, then, consider the Common Core Standards third-grade writing lesson outlined below—my contribution to the effort to curb adjective abuse. The lesson does a great job of outlining adjective usage in a variety of contexts and helps students to distinguish synonyms from adjectives, and, as so much good teaching does, makes use of an object lesson.

This Common Core Standards third-grade writing lesson aligns to the following standards:

W.3.4.: With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the...

W.3.10.: Write routinely over extended time frames ...

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May 22nd, 2013

Common Core — Creating Experts in Our Field

Common Core ExpertsYes, we are seeing great teaching and new methods in the classroom thanks to the challenge of meeting the rigor of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and students are able to not only answer questions, but also discuss and communicate deeply on the process. But as an instructional coach, one of the most exciting changes I’m seeing is the improvement in our teachers.

I am in a district where we are currently teaching and writing units of study for ELA and mathematics. For anyone who has tackled this task, you know it’s a long road of pouring your heart, mind, and energy into creating something that almost immediately needs to be changed again. While it may be a daunting and frustrating task to some, it truly is inspiring to others.

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March 28th, 2013

Vocabulary Spelling City: Spelling in the Common Core

common core standards spelling lessonsBy Cameron Pipkin

Common Core Standards Spelling Lessons: This Interactive Spelling and Vocabulary Site Gives You a Hundred New Ways to Help Your Kids to Spell, and to Align Your Lessons to the Core

I was hunting down some Common Core Standards spelling lesson resources for a follower on Twitter (follow me at @CommonCoreGuru) and I came across a great website for elementary school teachers:

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March 14th, 2013

Charlotte Danielson on Teaching and the Common Core

common core standards charlotte danielsonBy Cameron Pipkin

“I see the common core as a fertile and rich opportunity for really important professional learning by teachers, because…not all teachers have been prepared to teach in this way.”

Anthony Rebora at Education Week just published a great interview with teaching framework guru Charlotte Danielson, where they discussed the Common Core Standards—their implications in the day-to-day classroom and what good Common Core teaching will look like. This is definitely worth a read:

"Charlotte Danielson, a former teacher and school administrator with degrees from Cornell and Oxford Universities, is one of the most recognized authorities on teaching practice in the United States. A popular speaker and trainer, she is best known as the creator of the "Framework for Teaching," a 115-page set of components for effective pedagogy that is used in many states and districts to inform teacher evaluation and professional development:

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March 12th, 2013

Asking Questions to Get Students Thinking Deeply about Math

college and career readiness standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

This in-class demonstration shows how elementary school teachers in New York are getting their students to understand the steps it takes to answer a problem.

Now, for the first time, students in over 40 states will learn from the same set of expectations (college and career readiness standards): the Common Core Standards for English and math. In this video, we’ll take a look at what can be learned from teachers at two elementary schools in New York City who have already begun working with the Common Core college and career readiness standards as part of a pilot program.

Liz Bradstreet, elementary teacher at PS 124 in Brooklyn, New York, teaches her class according to the Common Core college and career readiness standards:

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February 27th, 2013

Common Core Standards Technology Resources

lady at computerBy Cameron Pipkin

So, Here I Am, Nearly Two Weeks Later But Still Ready to Deliver on My Promise of Common Core Standards Technology Tools!

If you’ll remember, I posted recently about two questions I frequently get relating to the Common Core Standards and technology:

  1. What does the Common Core have to say about technology? Does it make technological demands of teachers and leaders?
  2. How can technology help administrators and teachers to implement the Core? What are the best tech resources available?

I answered question number one in detail in my last post. As for question number two, about Common Core Standards technology tools:

Technology can help administrators and teachers implement the Common Core in countless ways—really, when it comes to tech, if you can dream it and build it, you can do it, often with excellent results.

Below I’ll offer three of my favorite Common Core Standards technology tools. I’ve come across quite a few, and the following are top notch.

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February 15th, 2013

Forcing You into the Future

common core standards technologyThe Technology Demands That the Common Core Standards Make on All Teachers

By Cameron Pipkin

I’ve been asked a few times in recent weeks about the Common Core and its relationship to technology. Generally, there have been two questions:

  1. What does the Common Core have to say about technology? Does it make technological demands of teachers and leaders?
  2. How can technology help administrators and teachers to implement the Core? What are the best tech resources available?

I’ll do my best to answer these questions based on the research I’ve done, but as always, I’ll rely on my readers to help me out. Comment below if I’ve missed something or gotten something wrong.

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February 14th, 2013

Gathering Momentum for Algebra

rolling stoneThis Video Really Helped Me to Understand How Common Core Standards Algebra Ought to Be Taught

By Cameron Pipkin

From Common Core Standards Math Team Coordinator Bill McCallum and the Hunt Institute: Quoted from the “Gather Momentum for Algebra” video.

Students often hit a wall when they get to [Common Core Standards] algebra. They go along through number and operations, they learn geometry, then when they get to algebra it’s as if they have to climb this cliff. We tried to write the standards so there’s a ramp up to the top of that cliff.

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February 12th, 2013

Are We Ready for Common Core Science Standards?

california next generation science standardsCalifornia Next Generation Science Standards Now Hang over the Not-Too-Distant Horizon, But Are They Ready for Prime Time?

By Cameron Pipkin

Another fight is brewing in the education sector, though most Americans don’t know about it yet ( they will soon enough). The California Next Generation Science Standards are due to be released in late March or early April, and if you thought the ruckus over the Common Core was bad, wait till the golden state requires every school to teach global warming. That should stir things up.

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February 8th, 2013

Easy-to-Use Template for Conducting a Gap Analysis

common core standards gap analysis templateCommon Core Standards Gap Analysis Template: Following Yesterday’s Post About How to Collect Evidence, Today We’ll Discuss How to Organize and Analyze Evidence.

By Cameron Pipkin

A couple posts ago we identified gap analysis as a good, ground-level starting point for Common Core implementation (though there are other things you should have done long before you begin your gap analysis) and promised a Common Core Standards gap analysis template. We then outlined how to collect evidence, an early step in the gap analysis process.

Today, I’ll share a few pointers on what to do once you’ve completed the hard work of collecting evidence and provide you with the beginnings of a Common Core Standards gap analysis template.

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February 7th, 2013

9 Students Arrested After Massive Food Fight (VIDEO)

food fight arrestWow.

By Cameron Pipkin

As reported by the Huffington Post:

While food fights may be the hallmark of the quintessential cafeteria scene in many classic films, in reality, the messy brawls often result in arrests.

On Friday, at least nine Ola High School students were arrested following a colossal food fight that broke out in the Georgia school's cafeteria. Now, parents of those involved are speaking out against the school's strict choice of punishment, local TV station WXIA reports.

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February 7th, 2013

Conducting a Gap Analysis to Implement the Common Core

common core standards gap analysisMeasure Your Gaps!

Are You Required to Implement the Common Core in Your School or District? First Things First: Conduct a Common Core Standards Gap Analysis

By Cameron Pipkin

The ASCD Common Core Institute is over, but rest assured, it’s all I’ll talk about for the next few days. By the time I’m done, you’re going to feel like you sat next to me through the entire conference (minus the $500 entry fee and some pretty bad morning breath).

The presenters were fantastic, and I collected some really powerful ideas that I’m excited to share—things I know are going to help you immensely as you implement the Common Core in your school or district.

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February 4th, 2013

How to Take Control of Your Common Core Implementation

common core madnessBy Cameron Pipkin

Madness! Just Like You, Educators Everywhere Are Losing Sleep over the Common Core Standards. How to Put an End to the Stress.

We’re on the first day of the ASCD Common Core Leadership Institute and things are humming. The morning session has been run thus far by Sue Beers, the director of the Mid-Iowa School Improvement Consortium and ASCD faculty.

For starters, if worry over the Common Core Standards is keeping you up at night, take heart: educators all over the country are feeling exactly the same way you do. Of the many attendees at the conference, from states all over the country, and countries all over the world (American schools), there has been much anxiety voiced over what to do with these standards.

Among the topics of concern:

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February 3rd, 2013

What a Jerk I’ve Been

ascd kickoffBy Cameron Pipkin

How to Make Up for Almost Two Weeks of Neglect?

It’s been a busy month, so I haven’t been able to post for a while, but I’ll make up for it this week, I swear!

That’s right. For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you’ll remember that I’ve been planning on attending one of this year’s ASCD Common Core Conferences. Well, the day has come. I’ll be flying out of Salt Lake City today and spending the rest of the week in sunny San Diego, sipping virgin margaritas on a beach (in February), and providing you with Common Core implementation strategies from some of the top leaders in education.

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January 24th, 2013

Mathematics Education: Being Outwitted by Stupidity

mathematics disabilityThe Way We Used to Teach Math Mirrors Our Interventions for Low Achieving/Learning Disabled Children.

Check out this piece by Barry Garelick, published on I’d love to hear what you think about his ideas. Sound off below!

By Barry Garelick

In a well-publicized paper that addressed why some students were not learning to read, Reid Lyon (2001) concluded that children from disadvantaged backgrounds where early childhood education was not available failed to read because they did not receive effective instruction in the early grades. Many of these children then required special education services to make up for this early failure in reading instruction, which were by and large instruction in phonics as the means of decoding. Some of these students had no specific learning disability other than lack of access to effective instruction. These findings are significant because a similar dynamic is at play in math education:

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January 22nd, 2013

Common Core Standards Writing Task Lesson: Aaron Swartz and the Free Culture Movement

common core standards writing taskBy Cameron Pipkin

This Common Core Standards Writing Task Lesson Asks Students to Critically Analyze a Trending National Headline, to Take a Side, and to Defend It.

I think [Aaron] could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so.

-Cory Doctorow

Aligned to Common Core Standards: RI1, RI4, RI10, W1, W4, W9, W10, RH1

Here’s another great Common Core Standards writing task lesson from the folks at New York Times’ The Learning Network blog. Since many of us, our students included, have spent the last couple weeks learning who Aaron Swartz is, this is a great moment to discuss a highly controversial, compelling topic by highlighting the tragedy of Swartz’s death.

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January 17th, 2013

How to Think Your Way into Success

critical thinking lessonBy Cameron Pipkin

Critical Thinking Lessons: In a World Where Innovation is the Key to Success, Why Aren’t We Doing More to Teach Our Kids the Key to Innovation? These tools can help.

Sit down with someone who knows what it takes to get and keep a job in today’s market, and before too long you’re sure to hear the words “critical thinking” and “innovation.”

Notice the order of those words. “Innovation” never comes before “critical thinking.” Critical thinking is the puzzle box where innovations are locked away. No one since Old Testament times has gotten to the heart of a problem by sitting around and waiting to be told. Nowadays, enlightenment must be earned.


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January 15th, 2013

#1 Education Article of 2012

top education article of 2012By Cameron Pipkin

Last post we began to list the top five blog posts of 2012. By now, I hope everyone’s settling into their classrooms or offices and 7 a.m. commutes. In the meantime, join me as we look back on Common Core Blog’s top two posts of 2012:

2) Common Core Pre-K Standards

This is a Common Core blog, of course, so we spend plenty of time examining the Standards, but for all the subjects we cover I’ve been surprised to see that the most visited post of 2012 discussed an issue that 90 percent of teachers don’t even deal with directly—Common Core Standards in the Pre-K classroom.

Now, I’m not aware of a state that’s actually implemented CCSS for preschool yet (if there is one, please let me know), but judging by the responses that this blog post received, leaders had better be ready for a fight if they do.

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January 10th, 2013

Top 5 Education Articles of 2012

top 5  education articlesBy Cameron Pipkin

Welcome to 2013, everyone. The Mayans were wrong—we made it!

Since many of my readers are going back to work for the first time this year, I decided in advance to save my 2012 review for the second week of January. So, before you finish shaking off that eggnog hangover, join me for a moment to look back our top 5 education articles of 2012:


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January 8th, 2013

Does Your Common Core Implementation Pass the Test?

implementing the common core math standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Are You an Education Leader in Need of Help Implementing the Common Core Math Standards? This Resource from the University of Texas at Austin and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Will Guide You and Your School to Implement the Core with Fidelity.

By Cameron Pipkin

On name recognition alone, this resource was a no-brainer for me. Who better to help with implementing the Common Core State Standards than the geniuses at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UT Austin?

Pedigree aside, this “Mathematics Common Core Toolbox” does something that few resources even attempt—it guides you through implementing the Common Core Math Standards in their entirety, from start to finish, with a nice, sound framework. And if you’ve already begun to implement the Core, this is a great way to measure your strategy against other successful frameworks. There is instructional material here to help you through the implementation phase, to teach the Standards, and then to properly assess students after instruction.

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December 20th, 2012

Common Core Standards Implementation Training

common core standards implementation trainingBy Cameron Pipkin

How to Turn the Common Core into a Resounding Success at Your School: Faithful Implementation

As we speak, the Common Core Standards are being taught in almost every classroom at your school, but how many of your teachers are actually implementing the Core with fidelity?

This Common Core Standards implementation training worksheet will help you answer that question.

One of the most hotly contested points surrounding Common Core adoption and Common Core Standards implementation training has been whether learning standards actually increase curriculum quality and student achievement. Famously, the Brookings Institute released a study in 2012 outlining the failure of various standards initiatives throughout the country. The study concluded, based upon the experiences of a select few programs, that the Common Core Standards were destined to fail.

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December 18th, 2012

Common Core Elementary ELA Standards

common core elementary ela standardsMerry Christmas! Common Core Elementary ELA Standards: Help Your Elementary School Students Learn to Summarize Text with These Holiday-Themed Task Cards Aligned to the Common Core Standards

By Cameron Pipkin

Thanks to Rachel Lynette for this fun little set of activity resources that align very nicely to a number of the Common Core Elementary ELA standards in the third, fourth, and fifth grades.

This activity fulfills or partially fulfills a few Common Core elementary ELA standards:

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December 12th, 2012

Why Students Should Run Professional Development

listen to kidsWhen It Comes to Education, Teachers Need to Listen to Students

By Cameron Pipkin

I’ll admit, based on the title of this post, an argument could be made that what you’re about to read is just more gimmicky schlock designed to grab attention online.

However, read further and you’ll find what I’ve discovered: a compelling argument for turning traditional professional development models on their heads.

You be the judge...

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December 6th, 2012

Attention Teachers! One More Reason to Visit the Library

online common core standards resourcesI Picked Up This Online Common Core Standards Resource at edudemic: the Most Important, Expansive Library in the History of Human Civilization Can Now Help You Implement the Common Core, Too.

By Cameron Pipkin

It’s been interesting to listen to governors, senators, and presidential candidates talk out of every side of their mouths over the Common Core Standards, as if it’s going to make any difference. The Standards are here to stay, and by next year will be so well embedded in the majority of school districts in America that I’m hoping the national conversation will finally turn from should we implement the Standards to how to do so effectively.

To that end, another division of the federal government has begun to take on the tremendous task of helping millions of American educators use the Common Core Standards to elevate student achievement. The Library of Congress has released these online Common Core Standards resources for free to the public.

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December 4th, 2012

How to Use Math Vocabulary to Help Your Students Understand Statistics

common core standards-aligned algebra lessonVideo Footage of a Common Core Standards-Aligned Algebra Lesson and Statistics by a Master Teacher

By Cameron Pipkin

My company, School Improvement Network, has just produced a new set of videos demonstrating Common Core Standards best practices. We’ve put out a pretty broad range of material with this release, but since I’ve been on a math tear for a few weeks now I thought I’d show you a 12th grade Common Core Standards-aligned algebra lesson that really helps students learn statistics. 

In this segment, Karmen Kirtley, a math teacher at South High School in Denver, Colorado, teaches her senior statistics class a two-part lesson in which they rewrite algebraic expressions and review statistics terminology on graphic organizers. Karmen’s lesson is a great example of a Common Core Standards-aligned algebra lesson that covers statistics as well, with some ELA standards alignment for good measure:


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November 29th, 2012

Circumference of a Circle—SUCCESS!

circumference of a circleThis lesson plan, brought to us by “,” outlines a great way to teach not just the ‘how’ but the ‘why’ of the circumference of a circle, aligned to the Common Core Standards.

By Cameron Pipkin

The Common Core doesn’t exactly force math teachers to start from the drawing board, but it compels them to do about the nearest thing to it. Every subject, at every grade level, now demands a different approach to teaching math. Gone are the days of rote formulas and read-and-recite lesson planning. The Common Core calls for students to acquire a depth of mathematical knowledge that will help them understand the ‘why,’ not just the ‘how.’

I came across a blog post the other day on For the Love of Teaching Math that outlines a nice little object lesson in the difference between math before the Common Core, and math after it, and provides teachers with a nifty lesson plan in the process. The post covers how to teach the circumference of a circle.

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November 26th, 2012

The Best Tool Yet for Teaching Common Core Geometry Standards

common core geometry standardsThis Webinar Shows You How a Basic Understanding of the Program Sketchpad Will Go a Long Way in Teaching the Kind of Transformational Geometry Required by the Common Core Geometry Standards

By Cameron Pipkin

Geometry teachers will find a number of changes in store for them as they begin implementing the Common Core Geometry Standards in their classrooms. To begin with, much of the math that we currently consider to be high school geometry is now taught in the middle school grades, and higher level, transformational geometry that has been rather neglected in U.S. curriculum now takes center stage in high school.

For teachers who could use a liitle bit of help implementing the Standards, watch video above; you’ll follow longtime teacher Andres Marti as he provides a beginner’s introduction to Sketchpad, a program you can use to build geometric shapes, patterns, transformations, etc., and teach the concepts of congruence, similarity, and symmetry from the perspective of geometric transformation

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November 21st, 2012

Teaching Eighth Grade Math Tasks

eighth grade math tasksTeachers Who Teach with Math Tasks Keep Their Kids Engaged and Help Tap Into Higher Level Thinking. The Next Webinar in the November Math Tasks Series Will Show You How to Design Instruction in Your Middle School Class Around Math Tasks.

By Cameron Pipkin

If you haven’t watched any of my company’s math-themed webinars this month, you’ll want to take a look. Next week we’ll be putting on an eighth grade math tasks webinar, but first check out what our expert teachers have covered so far:

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November 20th, 2012

Common Core Deal in Florida Sparks Legal Feud

florida common core feudLawsuit filed after state terminates contract

By Cameron Pipkin

Here's some interesting news out of Florida I thought I'd pass your way -- Cameron Pipkin

Originally printed online in Education Week, on November 13, 2012.

If the implementation of the Common Core State Standards is an opportunity for government and the private sector to work together toward a mutual goal, a bitter dispute in Florida over a website planned to prepare teachers and students for the standards is proving the messy realities of what can happen when government agencies and private companies can't get along.

The Florida Department of Education terminated a $20 million contract with Infinity Software Development on Oct. 30, about a week after the company filed a lawsuit against interim Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. The dueling public disclosures outlined a bitter dispute in which both sides claim the other acted too slowly and too sloppily on the project.

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November 19th, 2012

5 Tips for a Better Parent-Teacher Conference

better parent teacher conferenceDoing Just a Few, Simple Things Differently Can Turn the Oft-Overlooked Parent-Teacher Conference into the Single Most Important Driving Force in Helping Your Student Succeed.

By Cameron Pipkin

I found this blog post on CNN the other day and thought it could be of use to my readers. Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or administrator, attitudes toward parent-teacher conferences run the gamut—anywhere from the worst day of the year, to the most important activity at school. But as most experienced educators know, succesful parent-teacher conferences are all about the execution and the follow-up. Below, CNN’s Carl Azuz outlines some proven tips to creating the kind of parent-teacher conferences that will drive high student achievement.

“5 Tips for a Better Parent-Teacher Conference”

By Carl Azuz at CNN, posted on October 18, 2012

(CNN) - For many parents and teachers, it’s the first opportunity of the school year to sit down face to face and discuss everything from curriculum to issues that arise in the classroom. Here are some tips from both sides of the desk on how to make the most of a parent-teacher conference.          


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November 16th, 2012

Should Your State Make Preschool Mandatory?

mandatory preschoolWhy Preschool Could Be the Most Important Year in a Students’ Education, and What this Means for Policy Makers

By Cameron Pipkin

Maybe we learned more in preschool than we remember. As I’ve mentioned on this blog, my memories of non-mandatory preschool are limited to a swing set and “my dad can beat up your dad” disputes. Outside of that, it’s all a blank.

That doesn’t mean that non-mandatory preschool wasn’t important, though, at least according to a study recently released by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) and authored by Dr. William Mathis, managing director of the NEPC. The results of the study might surprise you.

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November 15th, 2012

Finally! They’re Letting Me Release This Year’s Top Common Core Webinar for Instant Streaming.

common core standards implementation planThis Is My Favorite Webinar of 2012. Watch Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs Outline the Most Effective Common Core Standards Implementation Plan in the Country.

By Cameron Pipkin

If you haven’t been following the webinar series that my company puts together each month, I highly recommend you go to this page and check out the webinars available for instant streaming. We put on a webinar at least once a week, always presented by an expert and always covering a crucial topic in education. This month, for example, we’ve been covering math tasks (that can, by the way, be used as part of your Common Core Standards implementation plan). Yesterday’s webinar was presented by fourth grade teacher Kalina Potts, and outlined math task lesson plans for the elementary school classroom. The webinar featured live discussion, video of in-classroom activities, and a question and answer period at the end. Next week we’ll use the same format to discuss 8th grade math tasks with middle school teacher Travis Lemon.


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November 14th, 2012

Bring a NASA Engineer into Your Classroom for Free

skype in the classroomMade Possible by Skype in the Classroom, the Free Program That’s Giving Kids Instant, Direct Access to Experts All Over the World.

By Cameron Pipkin

The universe must be speaking to me this week, because every teacher I’ve talked to in the last few days, without any prompting from me, has mentioned the same teaching tool: Skype in the classroom. They’ve all raved about it too.

I’m sure that many of my readers are aware of this program by now and have even used it with their students, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give it a brief mention.

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November 13th, 2012

Pioneer Institute Recommendations For Implementing the Common Core ELA Standards in English Departments

common core standards reading requirementsAs the Common Core Standards Reading Requirements Call for Teachers to Get Rid of at Least 50% of the Literature They Teach, This White Paper Recommends a Strategy for Keeping Lit. In Your ELA Classrooms.

By Cameron Pipkin

Mark Bauerlin and Sandra Stotsky at the Pioneer Institute have written a white paper about the Common Core Standards reading requirements that provides guidance for school leaders on how to implement the Core in their English departments.

The paper has two parts, really:

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November 12th, 2012

Real Life Scenarios You Can Use to Teach Math

fourth grade common core math standardsGet Ideas for Planning Fourth Grade Common Core Math Standards Lessons with This Webinar about Using Real Life Scenarios to Engage Students and Align to the Standards

By Cameron Pipkin

Happy Monday everyone! The countdown to Thanksgiving and a three-day work week begins!

And what better way to kick off the final days of 2012 than with some relief from the the mountains of work that pile up at the end of the year. Tomorrow—Tuesday. November 13—School Improvement Network will be putting on a free webinar called “Impact of Math Tasks & How to Make Them Work Part 2.” Part one of this webinar, “Teaching with Math Tasks: 8th Grade Classroom,” was one of the most well received online seminars we’ve ever produced, so we decided to create a follow-up that gives you some real world math scenarios to use in your lessons as you align fourth grade Common Core math Standards.

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November 9th, 2012

A Place Where Excellence in Teaching is Worth Exactly One Dollar

michigan teaching excellenceWhat’s the Value of the Skills an Excellent Teacher Brings to a Classroom over a Mediocre Colleague? The Answer Might Be Less Than You Think.

By Cameron Pipkin

It’s the dawn of the age of merit pay for teachers, like it or not. One of my favorite education news sources,, dug up this story, reporting on the unique merit pay situation of Davison Community Schools in Michigan. Without taking a side, I’m sure the people there have good reason for the decision. I’d love to get your thoughts on what’s going on in Davison and on merit pay for teachers in general. Make sure to sound off in the comments section!

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November 7th, 2012

Teaching Algebraic Thinking: Patterns

common core standards algebraic thinking lessonThis Common Core Standards Algebraic Thinking Lesson Video Demonstrates Strategies for Teaching Algebraic Patterns to Fourth Graders

By Cameron Pipkin

Starting young kids on algebra as early as Kindergarten might sound a little sadistic, but that’s exactly what the Common Core Standards ask teachers to do. Under the Standards, kids will begin receiving lessons in “algebraic thinking” as young as 6.

Sound tough? Some are saying it’s too much to ask of children, but as the teacher in the video above demonstrates, it can be done. The lesson she’s teaching fulfills Common Core Standard grade four Operations and Algebraic Thinking 5 (4.OA.5) that reads, “Generate a number or shape pattern that follows a given rule. Identify apparent features of the pattern that were not explicit in the rule itself. For example, given the rule ‘Add 3’ and the starting number 1, generate terms in the resulting sequence and observe that the terms appear to alternate between odd and even numbers. Explain informally why the numbers will continue to alternate in this way.”

Ci2Protocol describes the aim of the lesson:

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November 6th, 2012

A Measurement “Treasure Hunt” Lesson For Fourth Graders

common core standards fourth grade lessonThis Common Core Standards Fourth Grade Math Lesson Will Get Your Students Collaborating and Keep Them Engaged and Moving around the Room as They Solve Measurement Problems

By Cameron Pipkin

Volunteered by victeach as one of TES’ online teaching resources.

This lesson is a “treasure hunt.” You will find slips of paper containing measurement problems for your students to solve in this PowerPoint. These slips of paper, or “slides” in this Common Core Standards fourth grade math lesson are the treasure, and also clues that students will use to move from one problem to the next.  Cut out each of the question slides and place them around the room, stick them on the walls if you wish. Print out and distribute the answer sheet, one per pupil, or team, and set them off to find the answers.


Common Core Lesson Plans - Downloadable and Ready-to-Use

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October 30th, 2012

Teaching Algebra in High School Statistics: Common Core Standards Aligned

common core standards algebra lessonThis Video Shows a Master Teacher Teaching a Common Core Standards Algebra Lesson

By Cameron Pipkin

In this segment, Karmen Kirtley, a math teacher at South High School in Denver, Colorado, teaches her senior statistics class a two-part lesson in which they rewrite algebraic expressions and review statistics terminology on graphic organizers, in a Common Core standards aligned algebra lesson.

Ms. Kirtley’s lesson addresses concepts in the High School Mathematical Content Standards for Algebra: Seeing Structure in Expressions 3, Statistics: Making Inferences and Justifying Conclusions 1, and Mathematical Practice Standard 6. Kirtley’s lesson also aligns with the Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects Grade 11 and 12, number 4.

Before students discuss their graphic organizers of statistics concepts in this Common Core Standards algebra lesson, they work on two algebra problems. Ms. Kirtley explains why:

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October 29th, 2012

Bringing Parents on Board with the Common Core Standards

common core standards parentsThis Education Week Webinar Will Help You Make the Common Core Understandable to the Most Important Members of Your Community

By Cameron Pipkin

I thought I’d share this webinar opportunity with everyone. I’ve written on this blog extensively about strategies for messaging the Common Core Standards to your communities and teachers. Getting everyone on board is a crucial step in Common Core implementation that too many leaders are overlooking. This Education Week webinar will help to strategize messaging to strengthen implementation.

Common Core State Standards: Bringing Parents on Board

As schools across the country move toward implementing the Common Core State Standards, district officials face a major challenge:

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October 26th, 2012

Common Core Standards Writing Rubric

common core standards writing rubricThese Common Core Writing Rubrics Help Teachers in All Subject Areas Identify and Score Good Writing, Bad Writing, and Everything in Between

By Cameron Pipkin

The Common Core Literacy Standards aren’t getting nearly as much ink as the math and ELA standards, which is a pity—they’ll affect almost every teacher in America. So don’t think that the Common Core Standards Writing rubrics posted below are just for English instructors. Sometime between now and 2014 you and most of your colleagues will be asked to apply a version of these to the writing that’s done in your classrooms.

These rubrics establish performance benchmarks for argument, informational, and narrative writing. They guide users to score writing performance on a 1-5 scale, 1 being inadequate, 5 being exceptional. They lay out specific, consistent qualities that characterize good and bad writing in each of these areas. I’m sure you’ll find this as useful as I have:

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October 25th, 2012

High-Stakes Assessments Are About to Get Even Harder

smarter balance assessment consortium common core standards assessmentA Significant Deviation in Standardized Tests Has Teachers Worried. Check Out The Newest Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium Common Core Standards Assessment Questions at the Center of the Debate.

By Cameron Pipkin

To my readers who have expressed concern over the high-stakes tests being developed for the Common Core, know that you are not alone. As most teachers move into their second semester of Common Core implementation, many thousands are wondering what their new assessments will look like, and how much bearing they’ll have on things like funding, bonuses, and plain old employment.

While I can’t answer the second question, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) has taken a large step toward answering the first. Just last week, the consortium, which is writing Common Core assessments for twenty-five states, released Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium Common Core Standards assessment questions.

Most significant among the new sampling, SBAC has placed...

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October 24th, 2012

Explaining Common Core Writing Activities

common core writing activitiesWe decided to bring newspapers into our daily classroom routine and focus our instruction and Common Core writing activities around their content since they provide a flood of informational text every single day.

By Cameron Pipkin

This post comes to us from Jonathan Olsen and Sarah Gross, who describe how they’ve helped their students to develop analytical reading skills.

The recent adoption of the Common Core Standards by over forty states gave us the opportunity to revisit how our integrated humanities classroom is designed. We teach at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey. We are a public school of choice where students are accepted based on a combination of middle school grades and an admission exam. Our school is often ranked as one of the best high schools in the nation and is currently ranked the #1 S.T.E.M. high school by U.S. News. While our students are gifted in the sciences, they struggle, like many high school students, with analytical reading skills and writing. With the Common Core’s emphasis on argumentative writing and reading informational text, we felt the urge to restructure our classroom to better meet these standards and the needs of our students.

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October 23rd, 2012

Using the Common Core to Teach Kindergartners to Recognize Common Types of Texts

kindergarten common core standards lesson plansA Series of Three Kindergarten Common Core Standards Lesson Plans, Teaching Kids Rhyme and the Difference Between Prose and Poetry

By Cameron Pipkin

For my readers who teach kindergarten, here’s a fun little lesson plan that comes to us via the Dawson Education Co-Op. It was written by Tyger Sims, Kimberly Johnston, Angela Weaver, and Kara Jones at the ArchFord Co-op.

This kindergarten Common Core Standards lesson plan is more than just a lesson, actually. In its entirety, it’s a short unit that contains three or four days’ worth of material to help kids learn rhyme and the difference between a poem and a story.

All you need to teach this lesson are a few books and poems. The following are suggested:

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October 22nd, 2012

Unit Plan for Unbroken and Farewell to Manzanar, Common Core Aligned

seventh grade common core standards lesson planCheck Out This Seventh Grade Common Core Standards Lesson Plan for the ELA Classroom

By Cameron Pipkin

This is an awesome seventh grade Common Core Standards lesson plan for the ELA classroom. I found it on the Illinois State Board of Education website, though I’m not sure exactly where they got it.  

This seventh grade Common Core Standards lesson plan is a full 47-pages long, and covers everything from reading outlines, activity plans, writing prompts, and teacher questions. It walks you, step by step, through a week’s worth of lessons on Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston’s Farewell to Manzanar

Most importantly, the questions and assignments here help students develop the skills they need to become college and career ready. This lesson aligns to a number of the Common Core Standards:

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October 19th, 2012

Schools Abandon the Classroom Entirely

school abandons classroomA New School System in Sweden Tries a Bold Alternative Learning Model, Eliminating All of Its Classrooms in Favor of an Environment That Fosters Childrens' "Curiosity and Creativity”

By Cameron Pipkin

People have been talking about reforming education since before I was born, but decades have come and gone, and our classrooms look about the same as they did a century ago.

As I’ve discussed many times, it’s my hope that the Common Core Standards will push forward much of the reform that we’ve talked about over the years but haven’t created. In the meantime, schools in other parts of the world are pushing alternative learning models at a remarkable pace. Take, for example, Vittra, a new school system in Sweden that has abandoned the traditional classroom entirely.

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October 18th, 2012

Plan Common Core Math Units…by Friday Morning

common core math unitsWatch This Webinar and You’ll Be Able to Implement and Plan Common Core Math Units and Lessons AND Get Continuing Education Credits

By Cameron Pipkin

I woke up this morning to a pleasant surprise in my email inbox! Mixed in among the usual junk mail and Facebook updates I found a message from the folks at LearnZillion advertising a webinar to help math teachers plan Common Core math units. I cheered a little cheer and put it up on my blog immediately.

One caveat though: the webinar will broadcast tonight at 8:30 pm EST. Short notice, I know, but if you can’t watch it tonight, simply click here to register for a copy of the recording.

By the way, if you want more resources to plan Common Core math units or lessons, visit the “Math: Implementing the Common Core in the Classroom” page. You’ll also want to check out the “Resources: Implement the Common Core Standards” page, where you can find resources from all over the web to help you out.

Here’s the email, with all the info you’ll need:

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October 17th, 2012

Common Core Standards for English Language Learners?

The Newest Common Core Standards to Come Down the Pike Include a Framework for the English Language Learners That is Already Being Adopted by Many State Education Departments

By Cameron Pipkin

There’s big news about the Common Core this week that I’d be remiss not to mention. If you teach in K-12 or follow education news (and most of my readers do), you'll know about the legislative efforts in many states over the years on behalf of English language learners (ELL). Most states have received some type of education mandate to help elevate their ELL students. In states with particularly large populations of ELL, districts have received funding to design courses and provide resources that level the learning playing field as much as possible for ELL students.

Unfortunately, though they’re only a few months into them in most states, the Common Core Standards have thrown a wrench in ELL achievement. This is because by most measures, the Common Core is much more rigorous than state standards of the past, and therefore much more difficult for ELL students to master.

In order to help educators guide ELL students toward mastery of the Common Core Standards, CCSSO has coordinated the development of a framework to assist states in developing or adapting English Language Proficiency (ELP) standards to align with the Common Core, called the “English Language Proficiency Development Framework.” They describe what some are calling Common Core Standards for English Language Learners:

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October 16th, 2012

Generating Questions about a Text with the Common Core

common core standards lesson plan fifth grade readingThis Common Core Standards Lesson Plan Fifth Grade Reading Can Help All Kinds of Learners to Begin to Read Critically as They Ask Thoughtful Questions About Texts

By Cameron Pipkin

When designing a Common Core Standards lesson plan for fifth grade reading, it’s important to go back to the foundational skills laid out in the Core. However, the foundational skills for reading in the Common Core, even for elementary kids, can look pretty daunting. For example, early to mid elementary “Common Core Reading: Foundational Skills” require that students perform a number of complex tasks:


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October 15th, 2012

Awesome Opportunity! Education Week Debate

october education debateDon’t Miss This Evening’s Debate Between Education Advisors for Obama and Romney.

By Cameron Pipkin

Those of you who follow my blog know that I’m an education policy wonk, so I hope you forgive me for getting excited about an education-themed debate coming up tonight.

The event is being hosted by Education Week, and as far as I can tell, it’s open to the public. I’ve been receiving emails with the description below for a couple of weeks now:

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October 11th, 2012

Nebraska Common Core Standards

Nebraska Common Core StandardsReasons that Nebraska Would Benefit from Adopting the Common Core Standards

By Cameron Pipkin

Nebraska is modifying its existing standards to look more like the Common Core (see in-text citation 3 on this link). This is an interesting move, considering the fact that Nebraska isn’t obligated by Race to the Top or NCLB waivers to do so. Do educational leaders in the corn husker state see some implicit value in the recent college and career readiness movement? 

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October 10th, 2012

Watch Ms. Bannon as She Aligns Her Third-Grade Reading Lesson to the Common Core

third grade common core standards ela lesson planThis is a great lesson plan that fulfills one of the most critical standards for reading informational texts, specifically:

By Cameron Pipkin

In the third grade, many of the standards for English begin to focus heavily on identifying elements of a text, things like topics, words, points of view, etc. Identifying the main idea of a text is really pretty foundational to all of this. That’s why I like the third-grade Common Core Standards ELA lesson plan you see featured in the video above. Ms. Bannon does a very good job of taking what can be a confusing task—extricating ideas and prioritizing which are most important—and putting it in terms that the kids can understand. Without a firm understanding of this principle, many subsequent ELA standards for the third grade will become difficult to teach.

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October 5th, 2012

Utah Writes Their Own Common Core Textbooks

common core standards aligned math textbooks

Get This Lesson Idea and Others from Utah’s New E-Textbook

By Cameron Pipkin

As we predicted, many of the Common Core Standards aligned math textbooks currently being produced for classrooms aren’t meeting teachers’ needs. To date, only a couple of states are doing anything about this, but, rest assured, this will change. Among the states currently pioneering their own Common Core math textbooks is Utah (my home state, as I never fail to mention).

This worksheet is a page straight out of that textbook, and provides an excellent, visual teaching resource for teaching arithmetic and geometric sequences.

“Everybody kind of has a picture in their mind of what a textbook is: some explanatory text, some problems, some homework,” said [Diana Suddreth, the STEM director for Utah’s state education agency]. “We’ve replaced the explanation text with math tasks….The book is really a guide to help teachers take students through learning experiences.”

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October 4th, 2012

Mitt Romney Speaks Out on the Common Core Standards

mitt romney common core standardEnding His Long Silence on the Subject, Mitt Romney Says Some Surprising Things About the Common Core Standards, and Splits the GOP in Two.

By Cameron Pipkin

There has been a striking silence in the Republican Party on the topic of the Common Core Standards. Case in point: delegates from my home state of Utah were frustrated when their petitions for a party-wide denunciation of the Standards went almost entirely unheeded at the recent Republican National Convention, even by Mitt Romney. How could a “big government” issue (as many in the media have framed the Common Core) elicit not so much as a peep from the most important conservative rally of the decade?


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October 3rd, 2012

A Lesson Plan to Help Kindergarten Students Learn Number Names, Sequence, and Place Value

common core standards for the kindergarten classroomCheck Out These Cute, Effective Worksheets Aligned to the Common Core Standards for the Kindergarten Classroom to Help Your Students Learn to Count. Aligned to Standards K.CC.1 and 2.NBT.2.

By Cameron Pipkin

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to the Common Core Standards. The first is that the Standards will do very little to change the classroom. The second is that they will change the classroom dramatically.

The first position is an easy one to take, given the fact that many current lesson plans, with some judicious tweaking, align to the Common Core with ease.

Take, for example, this Common Core Standards math counting and cardinality lesson resource for the kindergarten classroom: math counting and cardinality lesson resource, provided at this link. Many thanks to Sandy K who provided this resource at TES Connect and

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October 2nd, 2012

Do Student Scores Go Up When Teachers Return Bonuses?

student scores go upThis is a good one. Researchers at the University of Chicago conducted an experiment where they gave teachers their bonuses--$4,000 to be exact—before they’d done anything at all, at the beginning of the school year.

By Cameron Pipkin

Good deal, right?

Not so fast. The money came with a catch. This is “where the psychology came in,” reports NPR. “If student math performance didn't improve, teachers had to sign a contract promising to return some or all of the money.”

How leaders got their teachers to agree to this is beyond me. I suppose, as recent history has taught us, that “agree” probably had little to do with it. Sad.

Anyhow, the article below outlines the details of the study, and reveals the surprising results:


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October 1st, 2012

Common Core in the Classroom with Jacqueline Loiacono

common core standards instructional practicesThis Webinar Outlines Doable, Practical Common Core Standards Instructional Practices for Teachers in Any Subject

By Cameron Pipkin

My colleagues at School Improvement Network visit talented teachers every week, and film them in their classrooms. Lately, with the Common Core hitting schools for the first time, our crews have been logging dozens of hours of really powerful Common Core Standards instructional practices.

One of our favorite teaching experts, Jacqueline Loiacono, has taken some of the most important lessons that our filming and research has taught us, and put it together in a webinar titled, “Reaching Common Core Standards through Effective Instructional Practices.” Jacqueline’s webinar provides doable, practical, and relevant instructional strategies that create the conditions for optimal student success using the Common Core Standards instructional practices.

Click here to watch the webinar, and let me know what you think.

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October 1st, 2012

Jon Stewart's Hilarious Solution to the School Lunch Problem

school lunch leaves Jon Stewart's Hilarious Solution to the Problem that School Lunch Leaves Kids Hungry

By Cameron Pipkin

A story about how new reforms in school lunch policy leaves kids hungry swept the news cycle for a day or two last week, and while I was tempted to add my two cents, I never had the time to get around to it.

Well, now I don't need to.

I came across this clip from The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart takes schools and kids to task for the lunch strikes that popped up around the country last week. I agree with everything Stewart says (from trash rats to nerd grenades) and consider myself absolved from having to bring it up again.

Click here to watch the clip.


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September 27th, 2012

Finding the Volume of Cylinders, Cones, and Spheres Aligned to the Common Core

common core standards for junior high math teachersLearn Strategies for Implementing the Common Core Standards for Junior High School Math Teachers

By Cameron Pipkin

September is Common Core in the Classroom month here at School Improvement Network. To help you accomplish successful Common Core implementation, we’ve been sharing video footage of teachers using the Common Core in the classroom.

On Tuesday, September 25, we hosted a webinar led by Kimberly Snowball, an 8th grade math teacher who spent the entire 2011-2012 school year implementing the Common Core.

If you click on the video I’ve posted above, you can watch Snowball present a lesson about formulas for the volume of cones, cylinders, and spheres that aligns to the Common Core Standards for junior high school math teachers—specifically “Standard for Mathematical Content” 8.G.9, and “Standards for Mathematical Practice” MP.2 & 8.


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September 26th, 2012

An Elementary-Level Science Lesson Aligned to the Common Core Standards

common core standards in the classroomGet Common Core Aligned Lesson Ideas though a Free Webinar and Real Footage of a 4th Grade Teacher Implementing the Common Core Standards in the classroom with a Science Lesson

By Cameron Pipkin

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that September is “Common Core Standards in the Classroom” month. Since many of us by now have begun implementing the Common Core Standards in the classroom, it’s my goal to provide you with as many resources to help with implementation as I can.

If you click here, you’ll find a post I put up a few days ago with video footage of a teacher implementing the “Speaking and Listening” and “Writing” standards as she guides her class in preparing news footage about environmental issues in their community. As always, I encourage you to watch, learn, and blatantly copy everything you see.

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September 25th, 2012

Reading Strategies for the Common Core Standards

common core standards reading strategiesGet Common Core Standards Reading Strategies from the Educators at The New York Times

By Cameron Pipkin

I don’t know how I managed to miss it for so long, but I was turned on recently to The New York Times’ “The Learning Network” teaching blog. As far as I can tell, apart from my own blog and a couple of others, The Learning Network is the only blog that’s been producing Common Core Standards reading strategies since the beginning of the 2011 school year. Scanning the blog’s archives, I’ve found a number of quality Common Core lesson plans worth sharing.

The first lesson plan I’ll point you toward is a list of Common Core Standards reading strategies, centered around informational texts. As most of you know, the Standards recommend that teachers begin to emphasize informational texts, cutting back on the literature that has dominated the American ELA classroom for over a century.

The Times is taking full advantage of this mandate, suggesting to readers with a wink that their publication is chock full of informational text (“pretty much everything The Times publishes,” the blog says).

Fair enough. I’ll play along—though it doesn’t hurt that there are quite a few excellent suggestions for Common Core Standards reading strategies. Below are a handful of strategies offered:

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September 21st, 2012

Look What Happens When You Turn the English Classroom into a Newsroom

Common Core Standards Speaking and Listening ImplementationThis Video Lesson Plan Outlines an Entire Unit for Teaching the ELA Common Core Standards in the Common Core Standards Speaking and Listening Implementation Section

By Cameron Pipkin

September, as you may have heard, is Common Core Standards in the Classroom month here at School Improvement Network, and as the name suggests, we’re posting free Common Core resources to use in the classroom all over our website until October. Today, I’ll be giving you some free resources to guide you in Common Core Standards speaking and listening implementation.

At the top of this page you’ll find the first offering. The video is titled “Common Core Classrooms: Speaking and Listening,” and it features Yvonne Copprue-McLeod, a fifth grade teacher at Harriet Tubman Elementary in Newark, New Jersey, teaching the ELA Standards, specifically the following:

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September 20th, 2012

How Picasso Can Help You Implement the Common Core

common core standards art literacyCheck Out These Detailed Common Core Aligned Lesson Guides for Teaching Literacy Using Art: Common Core Standards Art Literacy

By Cameron Pipkin

A fellow Common Core blogger from “Common Core: Promoting a Full Core Curriculum” has posted a very helpful, very lengthy treatment on Common Core Standards art literacy. The author describes strategies for integrating fine art into the Common Core aligned, K-12 classroom. The argument made, essentially, is that fine art, from van Gogh to Da Vinci, can be read like a text. From the post:



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September 19th, 2012

Elementary Common Core Curriculum Maps

elementary common core curriculum mapsA Workbook That Outlines Elementary Common Core Curriculum Maps, Every Unit, Every Year, Grades K-5

By Cameron Pipkin

With school year now underway for almost everyone, there are a host of Common Core Standards resources being printed. Some of you, by now, may have seen a few of them. Today I’m featuring a book of lesson plans with elementary Common Core curriculum maps titled “Common Core Curriculum Maps: English Language Arts.” The book covers curriculum maps for grades K-5.

The book outlines units that cover every standard you’ll need to teach throughout an entire year. These elementary Common Core curriculum maps, more or less, will guide you from September to June.

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September 18th, 2012

Why Experts Support Overturning Education

common core defenseWhat I found uniquely fascinating — regardless of which school, state or country I was in — was the way in which common language and common goals drove systematic change.

By Cameron Pipkin

The following is an editorial written by Sarah Brown Wessling, an English teacher at Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa, and the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and an English Teacher.

With most states now putting the full press on schools to implement the Common Core Standards (potentially upending the current educational status quo), voices opposing and in support of the Standards are multiplying. Wessling’s article was written in response to an August piece by educator Marion Brady, who has been an outspoken critic of the Common Core Standards.

As a side note, Brady responds to Wessling’s article here, alleging that naiveté and lack of experience, which prevents teachers from "question[ing] orthodoxy,” are at the core of her defense of the Standards.

Fair enough, though I don’t find Brady holding his experience over a younger teacher’s head particularly effective. In fact, the skepticism/cynicism that Brady displays is one of the biggest impediments preventing many experienced teachers from remaining effective in the classroom. Studies show that the most effective teachers are those brimming with the type of enthusiasm that Brady sneers at.

Judge for yourself:

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September 17th, 2012

Why People Look Down on Teachers

common core standards teachersIn Many Communities, Teachers Are Not Figures of Respect or Gratitude; They Are Incompetents and Buffoons.

By Cameron Pipkin

Between all of the campaigning, striking, and Common Core Standards implementing going on in America, it’s no surprise that education has lead the news the last few weeks.

Disappointingly, the added press coverage has not been kind to teachers, who’ve been hung out to dry by what seems like most of the major news outlets. How this can happen is a mystery to me, but I’m happy to see that I’m not the only one up in arms about it.

The following article was written by Corey Robin, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Robin, who attended Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Oxford universities, questions how the greatest teachers he’s ever had could so often be treated like incompetents and buffoons. A version of this post appeared on his blog.

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September 14th, 2012

The Rise of the Utah Fringe in Education Politics

common core standards oppositionHow Fringe Elements in Utah Are Now Getting a Stranglehold on National Politics

By Cameron Pipkin

My home state of Utah wasn’t the first to take up arms in Common Core Standards opposition, but now that they’ve hit their stride, some Utahans have managed to become more shrill and more ubiquitous than almost anyone in the U.S.—no small feat I assure you.

This opposition, however strident, does not represent the majority of voices in the Republican party. Indeed, as Education Week reported just a few days ago, the GOP is divided by the Common Core Standards:

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September 12th, 2012

Common Core Standards Technology Tools

common core standards technology toolsAs More and More of School, and More and More of Life Requires Mastery of Technology, We Have to Ask: What Priority Should Tech Education Take in Our Schools?

By Cameron Pipkin

While it’s true that many of today’s students seem to have a preternatural knack for making technology work, I worry that great tech tools for the Common Core and other programs (like this) won’t maximize their impact unless we do a better job at teaching tech to kids in school.

My boss, Curtis Linton, was recently interviewed for an article in our local paper, the Deseret News, and made a good point about technology education in schools:

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September 10th, 2012

Second and Third Grade Common Core Standards Lesson Plans

second and third grade common core lesson plansLooking for Second and Third Grade Common Core Standards Lesson Plans? This Blog Has Just What You Need.

By Cameron Pipkin

For those of you who haven’t checked out a blog called “Pitner’s Potpourri” yet, I’d highly recommend a visit. As far as I can tell, the blog is kept by Mary, a second or a third grade teacher who posts an array of lesson ideas for the early elementary classroom.

Of course, there are a host of blogs just like Pitner’s Potpourri. What interests me, and will likely interest you, is the focus that Pitner takes on the Common Core Standards. The author has prepared a number of in-depth second and third grade Common Core Standards lesson plans, replete with instructions and worksheet templates. Many of the blog’s commenters seem to enjoy the aesthetic of the lesson plans that the author prepares, and I tend to agree. This stuff has a fun look and feel that I have to imagine (never having taught elementary school) adds to effectiveness of the lessons.

Here’s a list of her most recent second and third grade Common Core Standards lesson plans:

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September 7th, 2012

Show This Video to Your Kids If You Want to Get Them Excited About School

get kids excited about schoolsAs Some Politicians Call for the Dismantling of Public Education, this Video Defends the Institution, and Gives Kids a Reason to Get Excited About School

By Cameron Pipkin

Is it just me, or are there suddenly lots of people who want to see public education fail?

I try not to get too political on this blog, but I don’t think I’ll stir up too much controversy with this audience if I say that there is some inherent value in public education, and that it’s not worth scrapping in favor of whatever’s politically popular at the moment. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

So, as politicians and pundits question the value of a public education system, I’ll direct your attention to a powerful little video:

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September 6th, 2012

More Proof That Our Kids Aren’t Ready for College

common core standardsACT Releases a Study Examining College and Career Readiness, and You Might Be Surprised at What They Found

By Cameron Pipkin

By now, many of you will have heard about the ACT study measuring college and career readiness (the focus of the newly released Common Core Standards) in high school students. So as not to misrepresent the study’s findings, I’ll quote directly from the abstract:

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September 4th, 2012

Online Common Core Standards Resource

online common core standards resourcesCheck Out This Online Common Core Standards Resource. It Allows Students to Practice and Improve in Math and ELA Standards, and It’s Totally Free.

By Cameron Pipkin

So, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve come across an online Common Core Standards resource worth posting about, but this morning the streak was broken. Because I write about the Common Core nearly every day, and try to post about online Common Core Standards resources at least once a week, you can imagine that I have to stretch sometimes to come up with fresh, useful content. Luckily, a website called ScootPad is making my job a little easier this morning.

ScootPad is one of the better online Common Core Standards resources that I’ve come across in a while, and I think you’ll find it both fresh and useful. In a nutshell, ScootPad is an online practice platform for the Common Core Standards in both math and ELA, for elementary grades.

Using advanced adaptive learning technology, the website creates continually personalized practices for each student who uses it. This means that students can learn at their own pace, and in their own time frame, at home or at school, using tools that are simple and easily monitored and modified by teachers and parents, such as:

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August 31st, 2012

No, Algebra Isn’t Necessary—and Yes, STEM Is Overrated

STEM algebraWhy this religious zeal over algebra? It helps students learn how to think, people claim. Really? Are mathematicians the best thinkers you know? I know plenty of them who can’t handle their own lives very well.

I know that I have plenty of math fans in my readership, and I hope they'll find a way to forgive me for this post. I just couldn't resist.

For those of you who will carry a hatred of math to the grave, the following will both validate and encourage you. I picked this up on “The Answer Sheet,” an education column in the Washington Post:

By Roger C. Schank

Whenever I meet anyone who wants to talk about education, I immediately ask them to tell me the quadratic equation. Almost no one ever can. (Even the former chairman of the College Board doesn’t know it). Yet, we all seem to believe that everyone must learn algebra.

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August 30th, 2012

Proof That People Care About Education More Than Ever

2012 RNC educationWhile we should be happy that education has emerged as a prominent campaign issue in 2012, the spotlight will do us little good if politicians can’t get their facts straight.

By Cameron Pipkin

It might be true what they say—that there ain’t no party like a “grand old party”—but I wouldn’t know. Having given up on politics long ago, it’s a forgone conclusion that I will not be tuning into the Republican National Convention this year. If anyone asks, I’m busy washing my hair.

For me, the party really begins every morning, when I wake up to a newswire filled with RNC sound bites and dominated by headlines like “Ron Paul Supporters Walk Out of Convention,” “Can Ann Romney Make Mitt Likeable,” and my favorite, “Clay Aiken Racist?”

Of all the headlines I’ve encountered so far this week, though, none more accurately reflects my feelings on the 2012 RNC than one I found posted on The headline reads...

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August 29th, 2012

Are High Schools Setting Our Kids Up to Fail?

high school failingWhy Are So Many of Our Students Graduating High School But Not College?

By Cameron Pipkin

I know I’ll probably be strung up for saying this (especially living in Utah), but if I were handing out grades on executive policy, I’d give President Obama an “A” for his work in education. Say what you will about any other aspect of the man’s presidency, he’s been an ardent champion of the classroom, and has backed up his rhetoric with time, attention, and financial support of American education.

In fact, in his first joint address to Congress on February 24, 2009, the president set a lofty goal for American universities, challenging them to raise their graduation rates, and to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates on earth by 2020. To do this, according to the US Department of Education,” the proportion of college graduates in the U.S. will need to increase by 50 percent nationwide by the end of the decade.”

But, as my neighbors in Utah would remind me, talk is cheap, Mr. Obama. Three years after the challenge, and two years in the decade, let’s put our cards on the table. Just how far have we gotten toward that 50% increase in college graduation rates?

You might want to sit down for this

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August 22nd, 2012

See the First Sample Questions for Upcoming Common Core Standards Assessments

common core standards assessmentsPARCC and SBAC Take Some Significant Departures from Standard State Assessment Design.

By Cameron Pipkin

Most of us, I’m assuming, have heard about the Common Core Standards by now. This blog, by and large, has been dedicated to explaining what the Standards are, how they’re being received, and how to implement them.

But now the tricky part’s started, the part that no one's looking forward to.


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August 20th, 2012

Science Teaching in America Is About To Change

common core science standardsThere Aren’t Common Core Science Standards, But the Coming “Next Generation Science Standards” Will Change the Way That Science Is Taught in American Schools

By Cameron Pipkin

Watch out Common Core Standards critics: another school subject is about to fall: a new set of national science standards are on their way to a classroom near you. It's not Common Core, but it's awfully close.

Massachusetts, as it has before, will be leading the nation with these standards. As one of only two states in the U.S. to qualify as globally competitive in science education, Massachusetts (along with Minnesota) is serving as a model for the development of an entirely new set of science standards, called the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

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August 17th, 2012

The Strategic Business Partnership: A Rising Trend in American Schools

common core standards businessYou May Not Know It, But Chances Are the School Down the Street Is a Business Partner. What This Means for the Future of American Education.

By Cameron Pipkin

I can’t be sure why, but in the last couple months most of the responses I’ve received to posts on this blog have addressed the issue of business’ involvement in public education. I’m honestly surprised at how impassioned (read: angry) almost anyone with something to say on this subject is, regardless of their stance. A couple of regular commenters in particular are totally convinced that big business is about to take over schools, and that the Common Core Standards are the Trojan horse that greedy-eyed monopoly men everywhere will ride in on.

If you follow my blog, you know where I stand on the issue, but I thought I’d bring another voice into the conversation today. Chet Linton, the CEO of School Improvement Network, and my boss, was recently interviewed by the folks at MSNBC’s The Cycle. Here’s a portion of what he had to say on the subject of business’ relationship with public schools:

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August 16th, 2012

How to Map Your Curriculum to the Common Core

common core standards curriculum mappingBelow Are Some Crucial Insights into Common Core Standards Curriculum Mapping

By Cameron Pipkin

This is the second of a two-part series of posts covering Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ and Ann Johnson’s July 2012 Common Core Institute

I attended the Common Core Institute a two weeks ago, put on by Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Dr. Ann Johnson. The institute was held in Salt Lake City this year and gave attendees the opportunity to get one-on-one help in Common Core Standards curriculum mapping. Rather than attempt to string my notes out across five or six posts (which is about how much it would take), I’ll just cover the highlights. In this post, we’ll talk about Jacobs’ and Johnsons’ insights into Common Core Standards curriculum mapping.

As a caveat, nothing you read here is a direct quote. These are simply my summation and interpretation of two days worth of information:

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August 15th, 2012

Common Core Implementation Advice from Drs. Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Ann Johnson

common core standards implementationcommon core standards implementationBelow Are Some Crucial Insights into Common Core Standards Implementation

By Cameron Pipkin

I attended the Common Core Institute put on by Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Dr. Ann Johnson two weeks ago. The institute was held in Salt Lake City this year and gave attendees the opportunity to get one-on-one help in mapping the Common Core Standards. Rather than attempt to string my notes out across five or six posts (which is about how much it would take), I’ll just cover the highlights. In this post, we’ll talk about Jacobs’ and Johnsons’ insights into the Common Core Standards.

As a caveat, nothing you read here is a direct quote. These are simply my summation and interpretation of two days worth of information:

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August 14th, 2012

A Glimpse into the Personalized Classroom

common core standardsCurtis Linton Describes the Vision of the Common Core and Outlines What a Personalized Classroom That Achieves Readiness Looks Like

By Cameron Pipkin

I’ve announced once or twice that my company would be holding an education conference this summer, and sure enough, come July 16th, we held it. This was our second annual conference (called the School Improvement Innovation Summit), and thanks to a lot of hard work from my colleagues, it went very, very well. We heard from experts from all over the country—Michigan EAA Chancellor Dr. John Covington, Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and Georgia State School Superintendent Dr. John D. Barge, to name a few—and hosted hundreds of principals, district administrators, teacher leaders, and business people.

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August 13th, 2012

Analyses Find Staffing Changes Could Double Teacher Pay

common core storiesAlternative staffing models could boost some teachers’ pay by as much as 134 percent without increasing existing school budgets

By Cameron Pipkin

As I searched for "Common Core" on the web today, I found this story. Pretty interesting, though not Common Core related. I thought my readers might want to take a look:

Published Online: July 31, 2012 by Education Week

Analyses Find Staffing Changes Could Double Teacher Pay

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August 9th, 2012

How Detroit Is Turning Its Schools Around

common core compliant classroomJohn Covington’s Total Overhaul of the Lowest Performing Schools in Detroit Might One Day Impact Thousands of Common Core Compliant Classrooms

By Cameron Pipkin

Many of you, I’m sure, have heard about the work of Dr. John Covington, Chancellor of the Michigan Education Achievement Authority (EAA). Last week our company held its annual education conference, the School Improvement Innovation Summit, where we hosted Dr. Covington and a top member of his staff, Mary Esselman, the EAA’s Chief Officer of Accountability, Equity, and Innovation. I’ve read and listened to my fair share of plans to improve schools, and I have to say, what Dr. Covington and Dr. Esselman are doing in Detroit impressed me mightily.

But first, let me give a little bit of background:

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August 8th, 2012

How to Help Teachers Become More Effective in the Classroom

teacher effectivenessA Newly Released White Paper Explores the “Teacher Effectiveness” Effect

By Cameron Pipkin

I just finished reading a white paper that the folks at my company recently posted on our website, titled, “The Effective Teacher Effect.” I was so impressed that I thought I’d share it with all of you. The paper does a great job of thoughtfully addressing the disparity between rising high school graduation rates and stagnating college graduation rates. Essentially, it outlines what some of the most effective teachers in America are doing to help close this gap, and create a more college and career ready core of graduating students.

The abstracts states that:

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August 2nd, 2012

Uncovering Common Core Assessment Tools

common core assessmentBy Amy Esselman

What’s the difference between a doctor’s appointment and an autopsy?

While this may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, it’s a serious question.

I attended the “Mastery of Common Core Assessments” webinar last week presented by Jacqueline Loiacono. She used this same example and helped me understand in a clear, direct way, the importance of formative and summative assessments, especially when it comes to the Common Core Standards.

An autopsy, while helpful in some cases to determine what happened, is often too late to be truly useful in improving one’s health, or condition. What’s done is done—here’s what happened, don’t do it next time.

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July 26th, 2012

Common Core Instructional Videos Show Classroom Examples

By Amy Esselman

Common Core Instructional Videos Uncover What a Common Core Classroom Really Looks Like.

There’s a new series about Common Core classrooms available on Common Core 360. These Common Core instructional videos give a look inside at what lessons based on the Standards can potentially look like when taught.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how these standards will work in the classroom. What will they look like when implemented? And how are teachers going to teach them?

Watch the promo inside this blog post.

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July 25th, 2012

Common Core Assessment Webinar

Don't Miss Free Webinar on Common Core Assessment.

By Amy Esselman

Sometimes it helps put things into perspective when you can see and hear examples. School Improvement Network is providing the final webinar of the Common Core Assessment Series tomorrow—completely free!

The details are listed below.

Mastery of Common Core Assessments

Presented by Jacqueline Loiacono
July 26, 2012

Session 1: 12:00 PM EDT | 11:00 AM CDT | 10:00 AM MDT | 9:00 AM PDT
Save Your Seat*

Session 2: 3:00 PM EDT | 2:00 PM CDT | 1:00 PM MDT | 12:00 PM PDT
Save Your Seat*

*If you cannot attend this webinar, please register and you will be notified when it is available online on our webinars page.


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July 13th, 2012

The Common Core Control Battle

The Common Core Standards Are About the Kids, Who's Behind Them Shouldn't Matter.

By Amy Esselman

The Common Core State Standards will help standardize the skills kids should be learning in school. With the widespread adoption across the country, it means these standards hold up across most state lines.

I could move from Kentucky to California without missing a beat. I could move from New York to Nevada and get right back into school.

By my account, that sounds like good news.

 Yet, the new standards are still scaring people. There are countless people who argue that education should be controlled locally, and not on such a large level.

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July 12th, 2012

Benefits of a Common Core Support System

By Amy Esselman

Educators Need Support and Guidance to Conquer Any Common Core Fears.

Implementing the Common Core is a huge undertaking, one which involves all layers of a school system. It’s not easy and will clearly take time.

But sometimes I wonder about the time frame.

There are a few things in addition to general logistics that probably slow the progress.

Fear is a big one.

Teachers have enough on their plate. Add new standards, ones with big expectations, and you’ve created reason to stall.

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July 11th, 2012

Communicating the Common Core

Common Core Communication Needs to Be Consistent and Clear; Eveyone Needs to Hear the Same Message.

By Amy Esselman

When I was little I used to love the game ‘Telephone’—the one where you take turns passing a secret or phrase around the circle and see if it remains the same when it gets to the last person. I don’t know about you, but my friends could never resist changing it up. Changing the secret made it all the more fun, although slightly more confusing when you tried to figure out how “Yellow Banana” morphed into “Frankie Smells.”

Similar to my childhood Telephone games, it seems that the message surrounding the Common Core is getting slightly distorted. It’s a lot of he said, she said, going on and no one really knows what to expect, let alone how to move forward.

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July 10th, 2012

Common Ground for the Common Core

The Common Core Standards Are a Far Cry From 'Cookie Cutter Skills'. Standards Will Level the Playing Field.

Uniform knowledge is bad. Common schools are less than perfect.

I disagree.

I recently read an article that makes the argument that the Common Core Standards will make schools and students common—all the same, nothing special.

The author questions why we would want our kids to learn all the same things. On one level, she’s right. We want them to be individuals. But don’t we also want them to measure up to their peers? If students don’t learn the same types of things, how will they be able to compete academically, or after school? The Standards focus on more than the skills kids will learn. Instead, they focus on the progress and the road students will take to achieve them. They are learning the same foundation, but in different, unique ways.

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July 9th, 2012

Fact or Fiction: Reading Requirements in the Common Core

Common Core Changes to Reading Requirements Have Parents in a Tizzy.

In an ideal world, every child, everywhere, would love to read. More importantly, they would know how.

However, that’s not the reality.

Reading is hard. Yes, there are those students that enjoy it. But that is the exception, not the rule. In school, if kids don’t understand or like what they are reading, there is very little anyone, including the teacher, can do to make a compelling argument for it.

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July 2nd, 2012

50 Important Links for Common Core Educators

common core standards resourceBy Cameron Pipkin

This morning one of the more comprehensive Common Core Standards resources I’ve seen came across my RSS feed. It’s from the Online Colleges website and it’s called “50 Important Links for Common Core Educators.”

It’s pretty self explanatory, really. The site reads:

The Internet abounds with helpful resources that can explain the intricacies of Common Core, offer resources for curriculum development, and even let teachers keep up with the latest news on the subject. We’ve collected just a few of those great resources here, which are essential reads for any K-12 educator in a Common Core-adopting state.

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June 28th, 2012

Need Help Implementing the Common Core Standards in the Classroom?

common core standardsThis Tool Will Allow You to Create and Manage a Professional Development Plan for Every Teacher at Your School

By Cameron Pipkin

The more I learn about the Common Core Standards, the more I see how big a deal they really are—much bigger than most of us realize. A huge change is coming, and some really fundamental shifts are going to occur in the way educators do their jobs. I’ve written about some of those potential changes here, and here.

And, as with any major change, there are bound to be bumps along the way. Fortunately, strong instructional leadership can curtail much of this. To have success in the Common Core, schools need administrators and mentors who establish a system for teacher evaluation and are consistently present in classrooms, guiding teachers to implement the Standards.

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June 27th, 2012

Innovative Leader to Share Secrets at Summit

Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority to Present at the School Improvement Innovation Summit.

He’s innovative, driven, and on a mission to improve education.

Meet Dr. John Covington.

He's the Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority, based in Detroit, Michigan.

The Education Achievement Authority (EAA) is a newly introduced statewide system that will operate the lowest five percent of the Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools in Michigan. First stop, Detroit.

The EAA will help create a set of stable public schools with the type of support systems necessary to foster effective teachers and successful students. Covington and his team have a rough road ahead of them, but they’re already making gains.

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June 25th, 2012

Effective Teachers Get 100% of Students College and Career Ready

School Improvement Network's Teacher Effectiveness System Prepares All Educators to Get 100% of Students College and Career Ready.

Teachers have a tough job. It’s not always easy to make sure that each student in your class is prepared and ready to move on. However, that’s the goal. And, in order to do so, teachers need to be effective. Teachers can be fun, friendly, and focused, but if they aren’t effective at preparing students, it’s all for naught.

 They need the right tools, and the right resources to ensure that they’re preparing students in the productive ways.

 Educators need to be armed with tools to become more than just instructors. Teachers are mentors on the path to college and career readiness. But it’s a process. It involves hard work, and dedication. Teachers need to be able to self-examine their style, and willingly seek ways to improve.

I know what you’re thinking, easier said than done.

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June 22nd, 2012

Get One-On-One Common Core Training

Common Core Standards Experts Offer One-on-One Strategy Sessions, Implementation Frameworks, and FREE Access to the LiveBook: Mapping to the Core at Summer Workshop


With school ending, you can probably guess what’s going to be high on the training topic list. That’s right, the Common Core Standards.


Search high and wide, but for many educators it’s going to be hard to find good Common Core training. Of the handful of Common Core training conferences that are being conducted this summer, none will be as comprehensive as the Common Core Institute, a lively, interactive, Common Core training workshop taking place in July 18-19.

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June 21st, 2012

Understanding the Common Core: A College View

To understand some of the benefits of the Common Core, take a look from a different perspective.

As a college student I’m relatively new to the world of the Common Core. It wasn’t until this summer that I really got a grasp on what it was, what it could mean for schools, and most importantly, what it could mean for students.

I don’t mind telling you, I’m a little jealous that it didn’t come out sooner.

At 21 years old I’ve now been in school for close to 18 years—counting preschool. It’s hard for me to think back to a time throughout my schooling where I didn’t feel driven by content and not process. In high school I assumed that learning was tied to a particular book or text, not the skills that I could learn and use by reading it. In math, it was learning equations and memorizing formulas. It was what it was, and I made it through. But what if I hadn’t memorized things, or liked to read?

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June 21st, 2012

Are Teachers Being Forced to Use Technology in Their Classrooms?

digital learningHow Misunderstanding Digital Learning is Leading to Schools That Use Technology for Technology’s Sake

By Cameron Pipkin

You may or may not have heard, but in their sudden enthusiasm for technologically driven learning, the folks at the U.S. Department of Education have declared February 6 “Digital Learning Day.”

Personally, I celebrated this Digital Learning Day by wondering aloud to myself and my coworkers why it’s taken till 2012 for the powers that be to officially get on board with digital learning. Clearly, this is no longer a new innovation.

Regardless of their timing however, I’m glad that Arne Duncan has gone ahead and taken this step in recognizing that the future of learning resides in the digital realm. I’m not sure what to think about the initiative that he implemented to kick off Digital Learning Day, though.

As reported by Ed Week:

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June 20th, 2012

I'm More Than a Teacher. I'm a Mentor.

common core standards mentorDoes College and Career Readiness Simply Mean That Our Students Possess Knowledge—That They Can Analyze a Text, or Understand an Algorithm—or Is There More to It Than That?

By Cameron Pipkin

With so much talk about the Common Core Standards and the process of preparing students for college and career, I’m not sure that we’re spending enough time examining what college and career readiness really means, and what a teacher’s role in the process really is.

Clearly, whatever “college and career ready” does mean, too many students are falling far short of it now. Forget the high school dropout rates. Among what we consider our “successful” kids—those who graduate high school and go on to college—nearly two out of three are not completing their college degree!

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June 19th, 2012

High School Students Are Better Than They’ve Ever Been

condition of educationCongratulations America! We’ve Created a Generation of Students Who Are Better at Math, and Who Take School More Seriously. So Why Are Things Still Such a Mess?

By Cameron Pipkin

Sometimes life isn’t fair. Your neighbor who jogs twice a day dies of heart failure, the prettiest girl at school doesn’t get asked to prom, and, as a newly released education study demonstrates, we can all get A's in math and the Chinese will still be smarter.

Well, not all of us, but enough of us to tempt many to throw out their protractors and just give up.

This is the state of American education, where things are reportedly getting worse, and then getting better, and then aren’t “better” enough. Take, for example a study released recently by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) called “The Condition of Education.” As the study tracks key education statistics, it reveals some pretty good news: American students seem to be getting better in most measurable ways.

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June 18th, 2012

Schoolhouse, Inc.

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

I’ve always been interested in the antipathy that so many educators hold toward business. A few years ago, when charter schools began to gain traction in my home state, hundreds of concerned teachers came out of the woodwork prophesying the end of education in America. 

And it’s not that I don’t sympathize with their concerns, but a lot of what I heard sounded like teachers half-rationally defending a flawed status quo out of worry that they might lose their jobs if things ever changed.

Now, with the emergence of the Common Core State Standards, private industry is becoming more involved in education than ever, and many of the arguments against what’s being called the “commodification of education” are taking on eerily familiar tones.

Am I a stupid American for standing on the side of business in this debate? Am I even more out-to-lunch for thinking that, in the end, teachers have little to fear from business or business-like tactics (read: pay for performance) in their schools?

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June 15th, 2012

Reload and Reboot with On-Demand Professional Development

On-demand Professional Development is a Practical, Cost Efficient Solution for School Systems.

For small tune ups, app updates or computer packages, the costs of updating or revamping a system are minimal—except for perhaps restarting your computer.

Educational revamps hit the cost chart at a whole other level. To update and change the education system you need to have the resources and time to make it happen.

The Common Core State Standards are the next update and school systems across the country are still trying to figure out what it will mean for them in the short run, especially when it comes to cost.

There is no “remind me later” button, or “not now” option to press on your screen. The update to the system is crucial and requires more than just turning your computer off and on...

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June 14th, 2012

A New Approach to Teaching Math

common core mathI Was Excited to Read About This New Approach to Teaching Math. Could It Reach a Mathematical Troglodyte, Like Me?

By Cameron Pipkin

I’m not ashamed to admit that I scored a “1” on my AP calculus test. I always joke that my results came back with a razor blade and a note that read, “Please phase self out of gene pool.”

So, I’m no expert when it comes to math, but as I’ve studied some of the potential “instructional shifts” in the Common Core Standards I’m realizing for the first time that my incompetency with numbers and equations might not have entirely been my fault. Take, for example, the following “shift” detailed in a document prepared by educators in the state of New York, titled “Instructional Shifts for the Common Core”:

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June 14th, 2012

Controlling the Common Core Climate

Implementation of the Common Core Creates Learning Curve

Now, more than ever, is a tense time for teachers. They are tip toeing through a seemingly dark tunnel of the unknown and trying to prepare themselves for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. They are adjusting, experimenting and learning along the way all the necessary Common Core steps they will need to include in their classroom teaching.

So where do they go from here? How will they be evaluated and how are they expected to perform? The whole point of the Common Core is to allow for and foster success for every student. Surely the way they carry out the Common Core Standards will impact the possibility for success. What climate will they be working under, especially as they start to implement the Common Core?

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June 13th, 2012

Team Effort, Team Gain: Common Core Collaboration

Common Core StandardsCollaboration on Common Core Standards is Key to Successful Implementation.

The transition into implementing the Common Core standards won’t be easy for everyone. The process of adapting to and preparing for the new Common Core standards will take time and resources. The right information, teacher training, and overall understanding will have to reach not only the top school leaders and administrators, but also the teachers.

This kind of monumental shift in education, whether you’re ready for it or not, cannot be managed alone. The decision may have been made some time ago to work towards this Common Core Standards system, but there are still countless educators who have yet to even hear about the changes that are on the way. Even if the top leadership in a state, district, or school is aware of what’s to come, it doesn’t mean they will be able to implement it on their own and without the proper tools. What will it take, and how can the transition be made as smoothly as possible?

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June 6th, 2012

New Principals and Teachers- Take Note!

common core standards initiativeCommon Core Standards Initiative Impacting Future Educators

The new requirements and expectations of the Common Core Standards Initiative has created a current struggle to properly train and prepare teachers, principals and top level school leaders. Whether it’s confusion, time constraints, or cooperation, the fact remains that the message is hard to get across to some educators. As times change and the implementation process of the Common Core becomes a reality, it becomes necessary to look a few years down the road to the next set of educators and administrators. If the new system and standards are this hard to set in motion this time around, how will we prepare the next generation of teachers before they enter the classroom, and before they learn the old way?

Is there a way to illustrate to the future teachers and principals how things will be down the road?

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May 17th, 2012

National Science Education Standards Are Here

common core science standardsIt’s Here Sooner Than Expected, and From the Looks of Things, Quite Similar to the Common Core Standards

By Cameron Pipkin

This may already be old news to some of you, but I’m just coming on it, so forgive me if I’m showing up late to the party.

We’ve discussed the possibility of Common Core Science Standards coming down the pipe, and we’ve talked about whether science standards could work on a national level. Well, according to some very good sources, it looks like national science standards are on the way—and sooner than many expected.

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May 17th, 2012

Science: the Most Dangerous Subject at School

common core science standardsIs the Government About to Force Schools to Teach Global Warming?

By Cameron Pipkin

After taking a closer look at the NRC Science Standards draft—already adopted by more than half the states in the US—I’m actually pretty excited about them. They share three of the best features of the Common Core Standards—they establish learning progressions (every year you build upon previous knowledge); they teach fewer concepts, but more in depth; and, in part, they focus on performance.

Having said that, if the Common Core sparked a storm of controversy, I can only imagine how angry these standards will make some people. Clearly, when you establish science standards, you’re getting into the realm of dictating curriculum, and what’s worse, curriculum that many consider far from settled.

Case in point: the NRC framework draft says:

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May 15th, 2012

How Did Teachers Go From Heroes to Public Enemies Almost Overnight?

common core standards trustBy Cameron Pipkin

An Intersting talking point related to the Common Core recently popped up recently in our local paper, the Salt Lake Tribune, and I think it's worth taking note of.

Discussing the battle in Utah over the Common Core Standards, a writer for the paper claims:

It’s baffling that, when it comes to education, so many in Utah are suspicious of educators. We don’t usually find suspect the motives of certified public accountants in the area of accounting, or the intentions of doctors when it comes to the practice of medicine.

But conservative Utah legislators, leaders and members of the Eagle Forum and even some parents tend to see conspiracies in every effort of professional educators to improve what and how our children learn in public schools.

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May 14th, 2012

How Much Blame Should Teachers Take for Bullying?

common core standards bullyingBy Cameron Pipkin

In a world where there’s plenty of blame to go around, it never ceases to amaze me the directions that fingers sometimes end up pointed.

Take, for example, a recent comment made by Hank Nuwer, a Franklin College professor and author of several books about bullying and hazing. Nuwer is paraphrased in USA Today:

If administrators and teachers are overworked, and their focus is on getting students to pass standardized tests, so bullying often isn't a priority until something tragic happens. [Emphasis added]

As we know, bashing NCLB is about as easy to do these days as a load of laundry. Heaven knows that I’ve done my share, so I can’t fault Nuwer there. This is, though, an interesting and in my opinion far-fetched little barb. I’m not sure what focusing on standardized tests has to do with bullying.

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May 11th, 2012

The Mixed Age Classroom is Coming

comomon core standards transformation That’s right. This has been a long time coming, too. The Common Core Standards are about to make the mixed age/grade classroom a reality

By Cameron Pipkin

We contine the discussiuon we began yesterday, when we started to oultine ways in which the Common Core very well could, and probably will, change the face of the average school day in a number of significant ways. We've talked about what the Common Core will mean for traditional text books. Here's the number 2 way things will change under the Core:

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May 11th, 2012

Goodbye to the 8 to 3 School Day?

common core class scheduleHow the Common Core Standards Are About to Transform Day-to-Day Life in Your School

By Cameron Pipkin

When the authors of the Common Core Standards admit that the initiative represents a “major shift” in education they’re not kidding. Mark my words, not only will the Standards fundamentally change the way that students learn, but they will alter the landscape of education to such an extreme that we might not even recognize our schools in a few years.

And I mean that in a good way.

Below is the number 1 way that schools could very well become unrecognizable soon because of the Common Core:

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May 10th, 2012

Ask Your Math Implementation Questions to One of the Authors of the Common Core

common core standards questionsGet Your Common Core Questions Answered

By Cameron Pipkin

I’ve posted before about Dr. Bill McCallum and his fantastic blog, “Tools for the Common Core Standards.” Dr. McCallum earned his PhD in mathematics at Harvard, and is now a professor at the University of Arizona. His blog provides links to webinars, conferences, crowd sourcing, lesson plans, and other resources, all related to the Common Core Mathematics Standards. Dr. McCallum himself gets involved in the conversation a handful of times a month, and provides indispensible guidance to math teachers trying to implement the Common Core in the math classroom.

Oh, and did I mention that he’s one of the authors of the Common Core?

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May 10th, 2012

3 Ways That Schools Will Soon Be Unrecognizable

common core standardsHow the Common Core Standards Are About to Transform Day-to-Day Life in Your School

By Cameron Pipkin

When the authors of the Common Core Standards admit that the initiative represents a “major shift” in education they’re not kidding. Mark my words, not only will the Standards fundamentally change the way that students learn, but they will alter the landscape of education to such an extreme that we might not even recognize our schools in a few years.

And I mean that in a good way.

Below are the top 3 ways that schools could very well become unrecognizable because of the Common Core:

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May 9th, 2012

Need Help Aligning Your Curriculum to the Common Core?

common core alignmentWhat the Top Ed Consultant in the US Says She Would Do to Implement the Core. Download the Common Core Alignment Webinar Where She Outlines Her Plan.

By Cameron Pipkin

Many of you have heard of Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs. She’s a renowned expert on education and curriculum design. When she’s not lecturing at Colombia University, districts all over the country seek her out to consult and assist them in redesigning their curriculum.

The folks at my company have worked with Dr. Jacobs’ curriculum development team, and as a result she has partnered with us to put on a webinar outlining strategies for implementing the Common Core. We ran the webinar yesterday, and I was informed this morning that it is already available for download on our website. I thought I’d let you know about it.

Here’s a the description that Dr. Jacobs’ team provided:

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May 9th, 2012

Common Core Students Spend Hours Studying a Single Paragraph

common core standardsIt’s Becoming Clear That the Common Core is Going to Require A Lot of Patience. What This Means for Its Future.

By Cameron Pipkin

Who knew that a statement as simple as, “I’m a supporter of the Common Core Standards,” would rile so many of my readers up. I quote Tom Loveless, a widely known Common Core detractor: “[It’s] like putting my hand in a hornet’s nest.” I’m shocked at the comments my blog is getting on almost a daily basis.

“You are a bad person, and you should feel bad,” says one reader.

“Quit trying to trick us,” says another.

Though I’ll admit that outside of comments on my blog, most of the people I’m around all day support the Common Core, I don’t find my colleagues’ optimism that “everyone will come around” very realistic. At least not for quite a while.

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May 8th, 2012

Common Core Implementation: What Special Ed Teachers Have That Others Don’t

common core implementationWhy Your Special Ed Teachers Are Specially Equipped to Become Powerful Leaders in Common Core Implementation.

By Cameron Pipkin

While some schools have (unintentionally) relegated their special education teachers to little islands—isolating them in many ways from staff in other subject areas—with the advent of Common Core Standards implementation, smart educators are rethinking the role of special education teachers in the school at large.

This is because...

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May 8th, 2012

This Really Is the Best Common Core Resource I’ve Seen

common core resourcesBecause We’re For-Profit, We’re Able to Put Out More Common Core Training Content, and Better Content, Than Anyone Else in the Education Space. See For Yourself.

By Cameron Pipkin

Common Core Resources: The past few months there have seen some major changes in schools—shifts in the education that will shape the landscape of learning for decades to come. As we know, the most dramatic of these changes has been the initial implementation and training on the Common Core Standards, a set of education benchmarks adopted in the majority of states in the U.S.

I’ve posted many Common Core resources in the past—at least a couple of resources a week. The web is full of them, and a simple Google search will provide you enough to keep you busy.

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May 7th, 2012

Free Webinar to Help ELA Teachers Implement the Common Core

common core implementationHere’s Another Fantastic Resource for Teachers Trying to Implement the Common Core Standards, and Leaders Trying to Train on the Common Core Standards (cannot be viewed on Firefox Browswer)

By Cameron Pipkin

This webinar was conducted a few months ago by Dr. Ann Johnson, a member of Heidi Hayes Jacobs consulting team at Curriculum 21, where she serves as the Director of Professional Development.  Dr. Johnson has been a classroom teacher, a building and district administrator, and adjunct college professor. She has worked with leaders and teachers in K-12 districts, post-secondary institutions, and private schools to implement curriculum mapping.

On a personal note, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Dr. Johnson a bit, and I can’t say enough about her intelligence and wisdom. She really knows her stuff. She basically spends her times going into struggling schools and turning them around.

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May 7th, 2012

Could Smart Phones Take Away Teachers’ Jobs?

teacher job technologyIn the Last Century, Technology Has Made Millions of Human Jobs Irrelevant. Will Teaching be Next?

By Cameron Pipkin

Last post we discussed a dilemma that has many teachers worried, and maybe worse, has many potential teachers thinking twice about pursuing a career in education.

With the rise of technology, the democratization of information, and emerging platforms that allow anyone to teach and learn anytime, anywhere, it would be easy to say that things are looking grim for the traditional teacher (see last Friday’s post).

Well, I’m here to tell you that this is all true.

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May 4th, 2012

Things You Need to Know if You’re Implementing the Common Core In Math Class

common core mathThings Math Teachers Should Know, Drawn from a Michigan State Study on Common Core Implementation

By Cameron Pipkin

A new study, titled “The Challenge of Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics,” conducted by Dr. William H Schmidt of Michigan State University, compares current state math standards to the Common Core Math Standards, and surveys math teachers, questioning their knowledge, concern, and regard for the standards.

Much of what Dr. Schmidt finds is surprising, especially given the mixed (to put it kindly) coverage that the Common Core is getting in the media.

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May 4th, 2012

Rise of the Machines: Are Teachers’ Jobs in Jeopardy?

common core iphomeWhen the Common Core Standards ask teachers to get students “college and career ready,” what they’re really asking them to do is prepare kids to succeed, or at very least survive, in the 21st century world.

Simple enough, right? But what will success in the 21st century look like, and what will our kids need to know to achieve such success?

By Cameron Pipkin

Well, for starters, as far as facts go, they won’t need to know very much. Students have 100 million Encyclopedia Britannicas stuffed into the smartphone in their pocket. That smartphone, in fact—the one we force students to put away in class—might be the biggest threat to teachers’ jobs ever created. Forget the recession. The iPhone could have us all in a breadline before the decade is out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let me explain.

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May 3rd, 2012

Doodling Makes You Smarter

common core doodlingAs the Common Core continues to roll out all over the country, teachers are looking for new ideas, and new ways to engage students in learning. Here’s one idea for improving learning, lifted straight from the world of business.

By Cameron Pipkin

There’s an image in my head that’s been stuck there since I was 7 years old, and 20 years of therapy wouldn’t get it out. It looks something like this:

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May 3rd, 2012

What the Common Core Means for the Language Arts Classroom

common core elaWill Discuss Ways That Teachers Can Begin Integrating the Language Arts Standards into Their Planning

By Cameron Pipkin

This is very last minute, I know, but a Common Core webinar came across my desk that I knew nothing about until just about 45 seconds ago.  The webinar is titled “What Common Core Means for Language Arts Teachers,” and will be held TODAY, Thursday, May 3, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. (EST). The webinar is being presented by Sarah Brown Wessling, and hosted by Education Week.

From the webinar description page:

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May 2nd, 2012

Free Gifts for Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Week

common core giftIt’s that time of year again! Teacher appreciation day (May 8) and teacher appreciation week (May 7-11) are upon us.

And just in case no one else stops to say thank you, I’m going to show appreciation to the readers of this blog by giving away a free 1-year subscription to my company’s Common Core professional development platform, Common Core 360, during teacher appreciation week.

Now, I know what follows is going to feel like an ad, but trust me, there are ads aplenty for this product online and in print. I just want you to know what you’re getting.

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May 2nd, 2012

This Free Video Shows How to Implement the Common Core Standards

common core videoA New Common Core Implementation Resource Captures Hours of Video Footage of Educators Implementing the Common Core Standards

By Cameron Pipkin

Fresh off the presses, a new set of Common Core instructional videos charting in detail how Indian River Schools in Delaware successfully achieved Common Core implementation.

Check out the video below:

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May 1st, 2012

The End of Pre-Reading for ELA?

Could the Common Core Standards Prohibit Teachers from Using Activities to Prepare Their Students for a Text?

By Cameron Pipkin

The web’s abuzz with Common Core Standards chit-chat, and in the last week or so a particularly vigorous debate has arisen around the practice of “pre-reading” instruction in the language arts classroom: essentially, providing activities to prepare students to read a text. Many teachers are afraid that, with the advent of the Common Core Standards, the long-held instructional practice might be coming to an end.

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May 1st, 2012

Why Smart People Are Hurting Schools

Common Core Standards BoldAs the Common Core Standards refocus America on “college and career readiness,” it would be useful to consider what kind of a place college has become. Where are we sending our kids, anyway, and who’s in charge there?

By Cameron Pipkin

Reading the Huffington Post this morning, I couldn’t help but put in my 2 cents on a topic that some really smart people are whiffing on.

Paul Stoller, professor of anthropology at Chester University, and Jessie Jacson (no resume needed) both write about the impending hike in student loan interest rates. Each is concerned about it, as they well ought to be, and each shuffles through a list of criticisms and solutions to what ails the university system.

Reading through each editorial, what distresses me aren’t so much the things Stoller and Jackson say, as much as the things they don’t say. Making college free, or making it cheaper (each respectively suggested), isn’t going to save education, and certainly isn’t going to save generations of American students. It will simply put a band aid over a hemorrhaging system; tie a sputtering old engine together with bailing wire; throw a new coat of paint over a rotting home; pick your analogy.

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April 30th, 2012

How to Crosswalk to the Common Core

common core trainingKansas City’s Common Core Curriculum Mapping Plan Provides a Great Example of Orderly, Well Executed Summer Training That All Educators Can Learn from.

By Cameron Pipkin

Before the summer, we thought of curriculum as a noun. It’s a noun, it’s a thing, it’s a binder it’s a document. In the summer a group of us became aware of curriculum as a verb, a thing that we are always doing, a process that is going to constantly evolve. And that’s the way it should be, it should change from year to year to fill the needs of the students.

We’ve talked a lot about Kentucky, the first state to implement the Common Core, but today we’re going to move on and observe another region that got an early start on the Common Core: Kansas City, Missouri.

Once the Common Core initiative trickled from state leadership to the Kansas City Missouri School District (KCMSD), administrators decided to organize summer training seminars to implement the Core at the school and classroom level.

KCMSD’s took the Common Core Standards seriously, and their vision of the Core’s integration into their schools was all encompassing. They saw the core as playing a vital role in both day-to-day curriculum planning, and existent professional learning communities.

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April 30th, 2012

Why an Engineer is an Expert, But a Teacher Isn’t

common core expertThe Debate Over the Common Core Standards Is Showing Once Again How Little Some in the Public Consider Teachers “Experts” on Education

By Cameron Pipkin

If your child were having a kidney transplant, would you hover over the surgeon and tell her where to make the incision?

When your city builds a bridge, how many residents are standing outside the construction site with bullhorns, giving on-the-spot engineering tips to the builders?

Yet, as Dr. David Wiley of Brigham Young University points out, “many suddenly feel qualified to critique a new and improved set of education standards common among states.”

What is it about teaching that turns citizens of every stripe into sudden experts?

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April 26th, 2012

How to Make Money off Your Student Loans

common core debtThat’s Right—Debt That Pays You

As the Common Core Standards refocus schools everywhere on the importance of college and career readiness, it would be worth your time to sit down and consider how sound an investment those tens of thousands of dollars you’ll spend on college is.

By Cameron Pipkin

Continuing to count down the top 5 reasons that racking up student pays off, we turn to a couple of interesting topics. Most interesting, and most pleasantly surprising, is the way that accumulating college debt can put cash in your hands.

Without further ado, here are numbers 2 and 3 on the list, proving that sensible, well-planned college debt can be like a pair of ankle weights—bulky and heavy, but incredibly effective at toning your calves:


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April 26th, 2012

Number 1 Reason that Racking Up Student Debt Pays Off

common coreTo read more on this see: Post 1, Post 2

How Being Aware of One of the Deadliest Myths in Education Can Save You Agony and Cash

As the Common Core Standards refocus schools everywhere on the importance of college and career readiness, it would be worth your time to sit down and consider how sound an investment those tens of thousands of dollars that you’ll spend on college is.

By Cameron Pipkin

There’s a deadly myth out there, killing the dreams of millions of Americans. Don’t be the next victim.

And here it is. The number 1 reason that racking up student debt pays off:

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April 25th, 2012

Top 5 Ways that Racking Up Student Debt Pays Off

common core debtDon’t Believe Everything You Hear. 5 Reasons That Accumulating College Debt Can Help You In the Long Run

As the Common Core Standards refocus schools everywhere on the importance of college and career readiness, it would be worth your time to sit down and consider how sound an investment those tens of thousands of dollars that you’ll spend on college is.

By Cameron Pipkin

Let me preface this by saying that, to me, the astronomical rise of college tuition is one of the biggest problems facing this country. I make that statement with a condition, though (and heaven help me if Dave Ramsey or my dad is listening):

The rise of tuition is a huge problem, BUT, whether you know it or not, college debt in and of itself is a good thing.

That’s right, I said it. Owing money for college is good. I’m serious. Here are the first two reasons why sensible, well-planned college debt is like that Christmas sweater from Grandma—ugly, tight in all the wrong places, and heavy, but good at keeping you warm:

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April 25th, 2012

Download This Common Core Resource

common core resourceHere’s the “Prequel” to the Common Core Resource I Posted about Yesterday

By Cameron Pipkin

So, I guess this is a bit of a “ready, fire, aim” moment, but I posted about a Common Core resource yesterday—a webinar titled, “Building Mastery of Common Core Learning Targets. In that post I mentioned that the webinar is actually the second installment in a two part series intended to instruct educators in implementing the Common Core. I also promised to post the first installment soon.

So, here it is: Part 1 of the Common Core resource webinar series, titled “How to Create Learning Targets Aligned to the Common Core.”

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April 24th, 2012

Kids Paid $6 Million to Show Up to School

common core standardsCommon Core Blog

By Cameron Pipkin

Guess What Happened When Researchers Offered Millions of Dollars to Students to Do What the Rest of Us Did for Free.

How many Xboxes will $6 million buy? Ask New York City.

Two years ago researchers at Harvard distributed $6.3 million to 18,000 students in NY (and 3 other cities) to do what they, and the rest of us, had always done for free: show up to school.

To be fair, students were also paid to behave well, get better grades, and otherwise make life easier for teachers and parents. Sounds like a good deal, right?

Apparently not.

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April 24th, 2012

This Webinar Will Teach You to Implement the Common Core

common core implementationI Highly Recommend this Webinar that Dives Deep into the Ins and Outs of Common Core Implementation

By Cameron Pipkin

Here’s a new resource for those of you in the process of implementing the Common Core. It’s being put on by a few of the experts at my company, and came across my desk yesterday. I personally know some of the brains behind it, and I’m telling you, these are impressive people—the kind of people you’d jump at the opportunity to get alone with and pick their brains, which, funny enough, is exactly what the webinar format gives you the chance to do.

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April 23rd, 2012

To Those Who Say School Is Too Hard for Our Kids

common core rigorThe More the Common Core Continues to Trickle Down into the School System, the More I Hear People Making Excuses for Students

By Cameron Pipkin

As the Common Core continues to roll out, many states are two ways about it. Some, like Texas, claim that the Core doesn’t rise to the rigor of current state standards. More often, though, educators are making the opposite claim: that the Standards, especially the ELA standards, are just too darned hard for our kids.

Now, I’m not so naive as to imagine that you can just throw calculus at any student and expect everything to turn out fine. As a teacher, I learned that there is definitely a sweet spot--somewhere between frustratingly hard and insultingly easy--in which optimal student achievement can occur. But to those who believe that asking students to critically think (which is more or less the thrust of the ELA Common Core Standards) is just too hard, I say the following:

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April 23rd, 2012

Get Free Common Core Videos

common core videosInside Word on a YouTube Channel with Free Common Core Videos

By Cameron Pipkin

So, not to pass along insider information (wink, wink), but a company I know about called School Improvement Network currently has a number of free Common Core videos up on their YouTube channel that demonstrate some very helpful Common Core implementation strategies, along with other teaching topics.

Word on the street is that the aforementioned YouTube channel is also about to be redesigned, and that more Common Core videos might be offered, as well as entire playlists of professional development videos for teachers. So, go to YouTube, enjoy, and stay tuned for me. I’ll keep you updated.

But, if anyone asks, you didn’t hear it from me.

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April 20th, 2012

Will College Exist in 20 Years?

common core collegeThere’s a Revolution Coming, and Battle Lines Are Being Drawn. You May Not Know About It Yet, But in Very Little Time, You Could Be Asked to Take a Side

By Cameron Pipkin

Since the Common Core Standards have us so closely focused on college and career readiness (and rightly so), I thought I’d take a look at the potential future of the American university system.

A few years ago, when banks were handing out loans like eggnog at Christmas and the real estate industry was riding a high of historic proportions, few would have predicted that the global market was on the brink of a massive financial collapse. For a long time there were only a handful of economists with sense enough to see that the market couldn’t support accelerated growth or price inflations.

New York financial consultant Nouriel Roubini, labeled Dr. Doom for his detailed, spot-on prediction of the coming world-wide crisis, was one of the few who called the recession.

The big tip ofsf for Noiriel were blaring:

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April 20th, 2012

3 Reasons to Rethink Plans for College

common core college(Continued from yesterday’s post)

Since the Common Core Standards have us so closely focused on college and career readiness (and rightly so), I thought I’d take a look at the potential future of the American university system.

By Cameron Pipkin

If I haven’t convinced you that the American university is on the verge of crumbling—and honestly, I’m not totally convinced myself—then let’s take a look at four of the biggest changes threatening to overturn it (taken from Dave Batler’s “Education 2.0 isn’t coming. It’s Here. And the Way You’re Educated Will Be Changed Forever”).

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April 19th, 2012

Top 5 Common Core Resources on the Web Part 2

Many Educators Are Unaware that High-Quality, In-Depth Common Core Resources Are Just a Click Away

By Cameron Pipkin

Rounding off yesterday’s list of the Top 5 Common Core Resources on the Web, let’s take a look at the top 2.

Without further ado:

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April 19th, 2012

Get Hands-On Common Core Training

common core trainingReceive Common Core training from Experts Like Heidi Hayes Jacobs

By Cameron Pipkin

Summer’s coming and you know what that means. It’s conference season! That’s right: long flights, endless continental breakfasts, and lots of note taking and hand cramps.

I know that many of you are already locked at a conference or two this year, but with the Common Core Standards rolling out, I wanted to make everyone aware of the School Improvement Innovation Summit. The Summit will be held in Salt Lake City on July 16-17, 2012 and will feature Common Core training from some of the top experts on the subject.

The Summit focuses primarily on innovations occurring in education, and will feature an entire strand on implementing the Common Core Standards. Participants will learn how to implement the Common Core in a hands-on environment from renowned experts like Heidi Hayes Jacobs.

I’ve been told that seats are filling fast, but there are a few left, so sign up as soon as you can.

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April 18th, 2012

Top 5 Common Core Resources on the Web Part 1

Many Educators Are Unaware that High-Quality, In-Depth Common Core Resources Are Just a Click Away

By Cameron Pipkin

This is a follow-up to my previous blog post, in which we discovered that teachers don’t feel prepared to teach the Common Core Standards, and one of their biggest complaints, if my sojourn online is any indication, is over the supposed dearth of Common Core resources.

While it is true that, as of right now, people are just waking up to the Common Core, and that the number of Common Core resources may be limited as a result, it is entirely untrue that Common Core resources don’t exist.

In fact, there are already a few excellent Common Core resources for those who know where to search. The truth is you don’t have to look far on the Internet to find abundant Common Core support.

The following, in order, are what I consider the top five Common Core resources on the Web:

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April 18th, 2012

Are You Prepared for Common Core Implementation?

common core implementation

For Those of You Who Think That the Common Core Is a Good Thing, You’re Not Alone

By Cameron Pipkin

It’s no surprise that teachers don’t feel prepared to implement the Common Core. Yesterday, we discussed a study revealing that nearly 1 out of every 4 teachers is unaware that the Standards even exist.

That same study exposes a couple more interesting facts that might be encouraging and useful to educators implementing the Common Core Standards.

First, more than half of teachers feel unprepared to implement the Common Core Standards.

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April 17th, 2012

What Does Texas’ Growth Mean for the Lone Star Classroom?

common core standardsAs Texas Schools Receive a Historic Influx of Interstate Students, This Blogger Wonders Whether Rejecting the Common Core is a Good Idea

By Cameron Pipkin

God bless Texas! I’ve never been, but it seems like that everyone in the world is moving there these days, doesn’t it?

Come to find out, they are.

In 2008, after conducting extensive research on growth in Texas, researcher James P. Gaines predicted that, “Events and circumstances point toward a Texas-sized boom between 2005 and 2030...the Lone Star State is being ‘discovered’ by the rest of the country because of its affordable housing, lower cost of living and cost of business, greater employment opportunities and appealing lifestyle.”

So far, Gaines’ forecasts have proven prescient. The 2010 census showed that Texas has grown more than any other state in the union by a wide margin, with no signs of significant slowing.

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April 17th, 2012

Knowing the Common Core

common core standardsA New Set of Figures Provides Insight On Just How Many American Teachers Are Aware of the Existence of the Common Core Standards

By Cameron Pipkin

My coworkers and I have had a bet going that Bill Gates recently settled.

We’re all kind of teacher groupies: we talk to them all day, we read and write about them, we’d be on a tour bus gathering autographs if we could get past security. Yet in all our interactions, we’ve often been surprised at how little of the Common Core has trickled down to the classroom. Some of us even know teachers who, by no fault of their own, haven’t as much as heard of the Common Core.

So, each of us has his or her own guess—a figure representing how many American teachers we think even know what the Common Core is. We haven’t literally put money down on it, but we’ve had many a discussion by the water cooler guessing at percentages.

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April 16th, 2012

Taking a Stand for Art Education

common core standards artWhat If There Were Common Core Standards for Art?’ What Would That Mean All Over the Country, Especially In Schools Where Art Programs Are Shrinking or Disappearing?

By Cameron Pipkin

Are they giving pottery classes in school anymore? My parents still hold on to every ash tray, mixing bowl, and wall hanging that me or my siblings ever slapped together, even the ones that fell apart on bus rides home from school. That’s a lot of clay.

Most of us, I'm sure, agree that there is more value to school pottery classes and other art education than the sentimental piles that stack up in the broom closets of proud parents. The creative urge exists in all of us, it’s a biological fact, and art education is one of the best ways to learn to develop it. At very least, it’s cathartic.

The story we’ve heard over the years though, is that art programs are disappearing in schools. However, a study just released by the National Center on Education Statistics provides data showing that art education has not actually declined, but that overall it’s maintained a consistent presence over the last 10 or 20 years.

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April 16th, 2012

Common Core Best Practices - A Step by Step

By Cameron Pipkin

The Common Core Blog has been getting lots of new readers over the past few weeks, and I want to be a good host to my guests. Looking back over everything I’ve written, I realize that there’s a lot of stuff to sort through, and that by now, almost a year into this blog's existence, we’ve gotten pretty deep into the Standards. So, in an effort to make things a bit easier, I’m putting up a nice little list of posts that will walk you step-by-step through the first couple stages of Common Core best practices.

Hope this is useful:
common core best practices

Building Your Common Core Messages:

Potential Common Core Standards Messages:

Creating Your Common Core Action Network:

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April 13th, 2012

Can Business Save Education?

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

So, Exxon is now supporting the Common Core. I don’t know exactly what to think about this, since many Common Core Standards conspiracy theorists swear that CCSS is corporate America’s puppet program. Is Exxon’s association with the Common Core good, or is it bad? Arguments could and are being made for both sides of this question.

More interesting to me, though, is the bigger question of business’ place in American education. Lots of people, many of them educators, are suspicious of big business to begin with, and with good reason.

This is why you’ll hear people argue that business in schools is bad because business people are only willing to make decisions aligned with their own self-interests, not the interests of students.

You also hear that businesses aren’t transparent, and transparency is key in education.

Others will argue that working conditions for teachers can only be worsened by results-driven business practices.

And I could go on.

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April 13th, 2012

How to Make Your Child a Better Student

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

You may not know it yet, but our kids’ classrooms are about to change. With debate raging over No Child Left Behind, a group of state governors came together three years ago and created a new education initiative called the Common Core Standards. By 2010 the vast majority of states had adopted the Common Core, and by 2013 or 2014, almost every teacher at every school in America will be teaching to these new academic standards, fundamentally changing the way we approach education in this country.

But what are the Common Core Standards? What do they mean for the student or students in your life? How can teachers help parents understand and support the new standards?

The National Parent Teacher Association has developed a new resource directed at helping parents understand the Common Core, called “Parents’ Guide to Student Success.” The Guide includes:

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April 12th, 2012

Could Common Core Science Standards be Coming?

common core science standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Though I’ve had a difficult time finding any official word on the development of Common Core Science Standards, there is certainly plenty of chit-chat out there about it. Those who dislike the Standards out of principle, of course, are livid at the notion that the Common Core could get its hands on science instruction.

The more interesting issue to me, though, is whether science is really suited for something like national standards. The Common Core ELA and Math Standards mark and measure skill and the performance of skills—can your student identify the theme of a text, or multiply fractions, etc.

Now, I’m not a scientist, but it seems to me that K-12 science is more knowledge than skills based. Am I right about this? I have to imagine that this is one of the reasons we haven’t seen Common Core Science Standards yet: science doesn’t naturally fit the Common Core program.

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April 12th, 2012

Implementing the Common Core in Urban Districts

common core implementationBy Cameron Pipkin

With so much in the news about the Common Core, I’ve unintentionally dropped a thread over the last week or two that we’re now going to pick back up.

For the last two months we’ve talked a lot about how to achieve Common Core implementation, and have been using Kentucky as an example. We’ve had a long discussion over how to message the Common Core to educators to ensure maximum buy-in, and then how to implement the Common Core at a local and classroom level. Below are some links to previous posts on these topics, for those of you just joining us:

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April 11th, 2012

Should We Replace K-12 with K-16?

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

I just read an article that reports on the efforts of a number of states to use the Common Core Standards initiative to align K-12 with Frosh-Senior university learning, thereby establishing a state-wide K-16 focus.

The member states of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) don’t frame it as such, but their decision to give members of its advisory committee on Common Core Standards college readiness (members of the academy) voting power on key issues is a step toward what Kentucky has done: establish a K-16 pipeline that will funnel more students into university-level learning.

The issues that some of the highest ranking university officials in PARCC states will be voting on are:

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April 11th, 2012

A Very Helpful Common Core Standards Resource

common core resourcesBy Cameron Pipkin

In a continuing effort to bring my readers as many Common Core resources as I can, I’m posting the link to a website that contains a variety of tools to help implement both at the district and classroom level. Most of what they offer is composed of PDF explanations and examples of successful Common Core implementation, and a few video resources.

Achieve, Inc. divides their Common Core resources into “advocacy” resources (high level explanations, mostly), “tools” (guides and rubrics), “resources” (workbooks and classroom models), and “videos.”

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April 10th, 2012

Check Out These Lesson Plans Aligned to the Common Core

common core resourcesBy Cameron Pipkin

This is a nice little Common Core resource I’m surprised I’ve never come across until now. It’s called LearnZillion, and it began as an experiment at a Washington DC public charter school. Essentially, if I read their website correctly, LearnZillion does what my company has been doing for a couple of decades: film teachers demonstrating best practices in the classroom and put lessons on video.

LearnZiollion has managed to collect homemade videos of lessons from teachers all over the country. What the initiative has created, essentially, is a nice little video list of topic specific lesson plans.

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April 10th, 2012

Can College Get in the Way of a Career?

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Like the rest of you, I’m sure, I was inculcated in the cult of education and taught early on that the only way to succeed in life was to get a college degree. One of my early object lessons in this was a poster hung at the entrance of my seventh-grade math teacher's classroom. It displayed five expensive sports cars parked in the garage of a mansion on a cliff by the ocean and read, “Justification for a Higher Education.”

I’ve always hated math, so I spent many an afternoon staring at that  poster while my teacher talked fractions and whatever else. Even then I realized how silly and ham-handed the message was, but there was a part of me, and I think a part of most Americans, that deep down believed it.

Eighteen years and three degrees later, the promise of the poster remains unfulfilled in my life. I’ve gorged myself on higher education, and all I have to show for it is a used Honda Civic and two bedroom apartment. What have I done wrong?

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April 9th, 2012

Check Out This Very Comprehensive Common Core Toolkit

Common Core ResourceBy Cameron Pipkin

I found another Common Core resource from EngageNY, New York state’s Common Core Standards implementation site. I’m posting it because it’s more comprehensive than most (not as comprehensive as this resource). Here’s a brief overview of what it offers. From the EngageNY website:

The Common Core Toolkit is a collection of the resources you need to guide your implementation of the Common Core – all in one place. First, read about the New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards. Next, get familiar with the Common Core with our “Get Started” guides for Teachers, Principals, Network Teams, and Administrators.

This Common Core Standards resource also provides the following:

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April 5th, 2012

Should We Really Fear a Big Government Take Over?

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

The Common Core Standards battle continues in Minnesota, where a bill just passed the state senate that requires legislative approval before the implementation of academic standards in the state. A similar bill was created and vetoed last year that would have prohibited implementation of any current or future Common Core Standards without legislative approval.

Should something as big as a state-wide education initiative be put before the local legislative body? Maybe so. Unfortunately, if this movement is like any other of the anti-Common Core Standards pushes we’ve seen, it’s not finding support among people who are interested in educating their colleagues, let alone having a fair and accurate discussion on the matter. Rather, it’s being pushed by groups with a limited understanding of the Standards who, out of misguided fears, want nothing more than to repeal them.

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April 4th, 2012

Watch Teachers Implement the Common Core (Video)

common core tools video imageBy Cameron Pipkin

To now, we’ve gone over ways you might organize educators in your state, district, and schools to mobilize them to implement the Common Core Standards.

Today, we’ll closely examine one of the most important players in any Common Core implementation framework: the on-site trainer. As I outlined in Monday’s post, in Kentucky, the on-site trainer is called the “content specialis 

The following video tracks one of Kentucky’s content specialists as she goes about her work on an average day:

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April 3rd, 2012

The Top 3 Arguments for Cutting Back on Literature in Schools

common core standards ELABy Cameron Pipkin

All right, I got you here with a provocative title, but before you gang up and jump me, let me explain.

An article I read recently in Education Week has me thinking about the new direction that English classes in America seem destined to take. The article claims that, “the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts demands…a rebalancing of fiction and non-fiction.” This makes sense. With standards that focus on skill and performance over making sure that students digest a list of great works of literature, ELA teachers are going to find themselves putting aside The Catcher in the Rye in favor of Freakonomics. I, for one, am all for this.

And I’m not saying that schools ought to cut all literature (in fact, under CCSS they won't)—just a good deal of it. If I had to choose between teaching reading and writing with lit or with informational texts, I’d go with the latter nearly every time. And I say that as an English major.

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April 2nd, 2012

Common Core Implementation Path

common core implementation

By Cameron Pipkin

We talked last week about the leadership network that Kentucky has established for making decisions concerning Common Core implementation, and for communicating messages and training from the folks in the state education office to the teachers in the classroom. For those of you who missed it, the structure looks like this:

On top of what we’ve already discussed, the Leadership Network has been effective because it makes teachers at every level a part of the implementation process, and not just bystanders or people taking orders.

“We believe that teachers need to be at the table when district leaders are having conversations about transforming teaching and learning across the state,” says Associate Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education, Felicia Cummings Smith.

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March 28th, 2012

The Power of the Democratic School System: Where Every Voice Counts

common core implementationBy Cameron Pipkin

So far, we’ve established a 4-step process for Common Core implementation:

  1. Standards Messaging and Awareness
  2. Impacting the Teaching and Learning Cycle
  3. Standards Based Reporting
  4. Align Systems for Staff Evaluation and Support

Now that we’ve taken a good look at Common Core messaging, lets move on to the next step in the process of Common Core implementation: impacting the teaching and learning cycle.

This step is the big one, the one that everyone is talking about, the step that essentially answers the question: How do I align my classroom teaching to the Common Core Standards? We’ll talk about this over the next few weeks.

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March 27th, 2012

Common Core Standards Resources for Leaders

common core standards resourcesBy Cameron Pipkin

n the spirit of yesterday’s entry, I’m posting another Common Core Standards resource that I think will be particularly helpful to state and district leaders implementing the Core. As a former teacher, I think there’s plenty in here for folks who spend most of the day in the classroom as well.


Rather than bungle through a description myself, I’ll just quote the document:

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March 26th, 2012

Common Core Standards Resources

common core standards resourcesBy Cameron Pipkin

Hi again. I had a crazy week at work, so it’s been a little while since I posted. My last post was the final installment in our Common Core Standards messaging series. I hope everyone enjoyed it, and learned something useful.

I’ve been receiving feedback from readers—teachers and administrators and paraprofessionals alike, it appears—who are having difficulty determining what Common Core Standards are asking of them. Many seem able to answer this question in a general way, but when it comes to the details, to each and every individual standard, the issue gets muddled and complicated. This is the kind of stuff I cover less than I ought to on this blog. I will make sure I correct that.

At any rate, in the meantime, there are some great resources to help you through this. I’m posting 5, detail-rich Common Core Standards resources below— keep looking out for more. For now, make sure to check these by clicking on the links I’ve provided:


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March 20th, 2012

The Secret to Being a Good Manager

common core standards messagingBy Cameron Pipkin

Ok, one final post on potential Common Core Standards messaging strategies, and then we’ll move on to other steps in implementation.

But first, a story.

When I was a kid I had the misfortune of working for my dad every summer. We fought and fought and disagreed and clashed. He even fired me once or twice. But worst of all was the clear (though unintentional) message he communicated almost every day for 10 years: that I didn’t know what I was doing. It seemed like every time I set out to complete a task—something as simple as polishing a wheel— my father would march out about half way through, grab the reins and take over.

“Gimmee that!” he’d yank the rag, or the hammer, or the crowbar out of my hand. “You missed here; you whiffed there; you got that wrong. Let me show you how it’s done!”

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March 17th, 2012

How to Implement the Common Core Standards

common core implementationBy Cameron Pipkin

We talked last week about the leadership network that Kentucky has established for making decisions concerning how to Implement the Common Core Standards, and for communicating messages and training from the folks in the state education office to the teachers in the classroom. For those of you who missed it, the structure looks like this:

On top of what we’ve already discussed, the Leadership Network has been effective because it makes teachers at every level a part of the implementation process, and not just bystanders or people taking orders.

“We believe that teachers need to be at the table when district leaders are having conversations about transforming teaching and learning across the state,” says Associate Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education, Felicia Cummings Smith.

Learn more

March 16th, 2012

Is It Right for Us to Set High Standards for Our Kids?

common core standardsA Recent Study out of New York Shows That Setting Firm, Elevated Standards for Students Causes Them to Live Up to Those Standards. What Implications Does This Have for the Common Core Standards?

By Cameron Pipkin

Funny thing about academic studies: they tend to have pretty sad little shelf lives. Remember when scientists said that cell phones caused brain tumors? And then they said they didn’t. Then they did. And then they didn’t.

Well, research has recently been released that undercuts the conclusions of that Brookings Institution study we’ve been talking so much about, the one that caused a heap of criticism to be piled on the Common Core Standards.

The study, released by the Core Knowledge Foundation, tracked the reading ability of about 1,000 students at 20 New York schools from kindergarten through the 2nd grade. The results showed that students who were taught under the “Core Knowledge” program scored significantly higher on reading tests than those in non-Core schools.

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March 15th, 2012

Could Another State Be Aligning to the Common Core Standards Soon?

common core standards alaskaBy Cameron Pipkin

Interesting news today. Alaska is among the few states that have not adopted the Common Core Standards, but word is emerging that the Anchorage School District is strongly considering embracing CCSS.

My interest in this story is partially selfish. Usually, all there is to talk about in the news is which group in which state is taking issue with the Core. The squeaky wheels typically get most of the media coverage these days, while those who are on board with the Standards (most of us) appear to be in the minority.

But today, supporters of the Common Core Standards are joined by the Superintendent of ASD, who says that adopting the Common Core would benefit both students and the district. Quoting a news source out of Anchorage:

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March 14th, 2012

How to Get Your Students to Believe in Themselves

common core state standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

All right, now that I’ve gotten some of that pent-up frustration off of my back, let’s continue with our discussion of Common Core Standards messaging.

We’ve talked about how important it is to not only deliberately create and transmit your Common Core message, but also to craft a message that’s right for your audience. We’ve gone over a couple of messages that might work for you, and that have certainly succeeded in other states (namely, opening up collaboration, and improving college and career readiness).

There are a few more messages in the Common Core Standards that I can identify, and that might be worth broadcasting in your state or district. We’ll cover these for the next few posts.

One of the things that I find most appealing about the Standards is that, if deeply understood, they send a fantastically positive message about our faith in students’ intelligence and ability to learn.

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March 13th, 2012

What Your Tax Dollars Buy

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Reading the news this morning, I was just about ready to call it quits on the day. Apparently, as a resolution was passing through the Utah Senate directing the state board of education to reconsider its June 2010 adoption of the Common Core Standards, the powers that be in Utah wrote a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stating emphatically that Utah has “complete control” over its standards.

Well, Utah has received an answer. The Department of Education agrees.

I don’t know how much any of these people make, but I’m pretty sure that I’m taxed to pay their salaries. I’d like my money back, please. That anyone would waste time on this is maddening. That a tree was butchered to convey the message is tragic.

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March 9th, 2012

A Sure Fire Way to Implement the Common Core

common core standards messagingBy Cameron Pipkin

Now that we’ve talked about how Kentucky successfully structured their Common Core Standards message, let’s move on and discuss how you might do the same thing. The final point I want to cover about messaging is that in Kentucky:

4) Leaders carefully crafted an appealing message—the right message for their people

In your state, district, or school, carefully considering your audience will be key to properly crafting your Common Core Standards message. Like Kentucky, crafting your message around the chief goal and benefit of the Standards—college and career readiness— might very well be the right thing to do. If it’s not the best message for your CCSS campaign, there are certainly other benefits implicit in the Core that might play just as well. We’ll go over these for the next few days. Let start with this:

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March 8th, 2012

The Truth About the Common Core Standards

common core standards messagingBy Cameron Pipkin

To continue our discussion over Common Core Standards messaging, I’ll quote the first title I came across when I searched Google News for the phrase “Common Core Standards”:

     Common Core: Curriculum Aims to Standardize What U.S. Students Learn

And the next read:

     Obama’s Education Takeover

I went as far as to click on the third article that Google listed, and found this description of the Common Core Standards in the first paragraph:

     Common Core: Curriculum aims to standardize what U.S. students learn

This is a typical day in the Common Core news cycle, and the message is clear: the single most impactful education initiative to hit your school in at least a decade, arguable in 30 years, is already being messaged for your teachers, and the message is not only woefully oversimplified, but skewed negatively.

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March 6th, 2012

I Never Thought My Coworkers Would Turn Against Me

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Today I’m going to steer the discussion back toward Common Core Standards messaging. This will be my third post on the subject, with more to come in the next couple of weeks. In this post, as in every post in this string, I’ll be picking up where I left off. For those of you who are just joining us, I would recommend reading the first two posts before diving into the present entry:

1) Getting Your Teachers to Buy In to Common Core Standards

2) What to Tell Your Teachers to Help Them Implement the Common Core Standards

In our last discussion we outlined the ways that Kentucky had implemented the Common Core Standards. I mentioned that they had done a fantastic job with messaging, and I listed 4 things that I saw them achieving particularly well. Those were:

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March 5th, 2012

What to Know About the Common Core Standards if You’re Going to Have Any Chance of Implementing Them

common core standards implementationBy Cameron Pipkin

The battle still rages on at the Utah State Capital over Common Core Standards implementation. As I reported in a previous post, interests here in my adopted home state are working hard to squash the fledgling initiative, and to make sure that Common Core Standards implementation never leaves state House.

The company I work for has been documenting Common Core implementation all over the country for over a year now, and honestly, we’ve been seeing the Standards make a huge difference in student success. That’s why our vice president, Curtis Linton, is rallying support for the Common Core. He just wrote an essay, published on, explaining why the Standards need to be supported and implemented in Utah schools. I'd suggest reading the essay--I’ll let Curtis speak for himself, but I thought I’d include a tidbit here that I really liked.

After describing the purpose of the Common Core State Standards, which, contrary to what many are reporting, is college and career readiness for all students, Curtis goes on to make the following point:

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March 2nd, 2012

See the Type of Mathematical Work that Should be Appearing in the Common Core Classroom

common core resources mathBy Cameron Pipkin

A little while ago I directed you to a Common Core Standards resources blog called Tools for the Common Core Standards that I've found really useful. It’s focus is entirely on mathematics, but lots of what I see discussed would be edifying to anyone with an interest in the Common Core Standards and a need for Common Core resources.

The site is overseen by Dr. Bill McCallum at the University of Arizona, and he and his colleagues have started a website called, home of the Illustrative Mathematics Project, an initiative designed to “provide guidance to states, assessment consortia, testing companies, and curriculum developers by illustrating the range and types of mathematical work that students will experience in faithful implementation of the Common Core Standards.” This is a great Common Core resource.

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March 1st, 2012

What to Tell Your Teachers to Help Them Implement the Common Core Standards

common core implementation messagingBy Cameron Pipkin

Ok, let’s put the mess in the Utah State Senate aside for a minute and get out hands dirty in Common Core Standards implementation again.

If you’re just joining us, it might be useful to go back a couple of posts, where we talked about the first step in Standards implementation: messaging.  I explained that our teachers and administrators are going to learn about the Common Core one way or another, and that there’s a lot of half-true, negative press out there surrounding the Core that might lead them in the wrong direction, if we let it. Leaders on all levels need to get control of the Common Core message in their respective spaces, or they might have a long uphill battle with Standards implementation.

So, let’s examine some effective strategies for messaging the Common Core. I can’t think of a better place to start than in Kentucky, the first state to adopt the Standards, and a state that, all things considered, has enjoyed a lot of success doing so. A recent article published in Education Week highlights Kentucky’s achievement in the midst of struggle, a good read if you have a minute.

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February 29th, 2012

Standing Up for Standards in Utah

common core standards implementationBy Cameron Pipkin

I know that I promised another Common Core implementation post, but things are going down here in my own backyard that I can’t help but address. A group in Utah last night snuck some legislation into the senate that would kill the Common Core Standards in the state.

I can’t fault these folks for pushing something they believe in—the thing that KILLS me, though, is that just like South Carolina and Alabama, their beliefs are based upon misinformation and false assumptions.

I’m in a bit of a rush at the moment, or I’d spend more time chewing on this. For now, let me post some of what Curtis Linton, vice president of School Improvement Network, has to say about Utah bills SCR 13 and SB 287:

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February 28th, 2012

Getting Your Teachers to Buy In to the Common Core Standards

common core standards messagingBy Cameron Pipkin

I’m going take some time in the next few weeks to outline strategies for Common Core Standards Implementation. Most of the ideas we’ll be going over come from the library of videos and Common Core Standards resources that the company I work for has developed. Like I’ve said before, my company’s been on top of the Common Core Standards since it’s inception, and subsequently they’ve produced some of the best Common Core training material I’ve seen.

Alright, enough feeding my own face. Here are some basics on Common Core implementation:

There is a basic, 4-step process that most states, districts, schools, and teachers are going to go through to successfully implement the Standards. The first step, regardless where you are on the education totem pole, is building Standards messaging and awareness. This is the very first stage in a long, complex process, but it might just be the most crucial—especially now, with the Common Core Standards in the press so much.

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February 23rd, 2012

Jumping Ship on the Common Core Standards

Common Core Standards ImplementationBy Cameron Pipkin

It’s sometimes frustrating how easily we’re made prisoners of the moment. This seems especially endemic in the hydroponic, microwave culture of America.

I say this because if what’s going on in the news is any indicator, everyone seems to be jumping ship on the Common Core Standards. Only a week ago the general coverage of the Standards was balanced, if not slightly positive. Now, with the release of the Brookings Institution study that I covered a few days ago, commentators everywhere are brushing off the Common Core cause.

The Washington Post leads the list of ship jumpers. Two of their education writers have denounced the Common Core Standards just this week. Jay Matthews wrote yesterday that:

I was impressed at first with the brain power and good intentions behind the Common Core Standards…I thought the change would elevate instruction and end the distressing difference between what defined student proficiency in Massachusetts (pretty high) compared with Mississippi (quite low.)

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February 22nd, 2012

How to Make Friends and Influence People with the Common Core Standards

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

The longer I work on this blog, the more I see that Common Core Standards news can only add so much value to what an educator knows about the Core. As I explained in an earlier post, I am going to begin to post and link to Common Core Standards resources that appear valuable to you, my beloved reader (hope that doesn’t come across as creepy).

 I’m in a unique position to do this. I work for a professional development company that got on board with the Standards early on. They’ve since produced some fantastic resources for educators attempting to implement the Common Core Standards. I have free, unbridled access to their library of resources, and can pick and choose what I want to share. Yesterday I put up one of our “Common Core Vision” videos—I hope you found it helpful. Today, I’m going to post a portion of a video transcript that shares strategies for improving PLC’s with the Common Core.

Like I said, what you see below is only a portion of the transcript. To get the entire thing in PDF form, click on the link I’ve included.

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February 21st, 2012

Why You Shouldn’t Believe Everything You Hear About the Common Core

common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Last week I discussed a Brookings Institution study that many observers are claiming prove the Common Core Standards are a dud. The study is getting a lot of press right now as one state after the other begins to wake up to the existence of the Standards and grapple with what they are.

As this occurs, I am seeing more and more that one of the biggest challenges with the Common Core, and one that wasn’t much of an issue with NCLB, is that they aren’t easy to describe. It’s hurting the Core’s PR. Google “Common Core” and you’ll see what I mean.  Most educators and media types want to describe them tersely, boiling them down to a single, descriptive element. This is absurd. The Common Core State Standards can no more be described tersely than can the US tax code. They are complex, made up of dozens of features, and serving a variety of purposes.

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February 17th, 2012

Brookings Institution Study Slams the Common Core Standards

brookings institute common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Lot’s in the news today about the Common Core State Standards—most of it negative.

First, much of the national discussion over the Standards is coming out of states that are attempting to abolish them. The most recent of these, South Carolina, is having a serious standoff, with Common Core detractors appearing everywhere, from the governor to the state schools superintendent.

Second, a report conducted by the Brookings Institution was released this week regarding (among other things) the viability of the Common Core Standards. Rather than summarize, I’ll just quote what the study said:

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February 16th, 2012

Free Common Core Resources from the Common Core Authors

common core state standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

There’s a growing multitude of Common Core resources out there, most of them on the web. I’ve posted one or two of the more interesting ones I’ve come across. Very few provide useful tools for free, most are in the beginning stages of life, and others still don’t seem to understand entirely what the Common Core is and what it’s impact on education will be.

As a whole, most resources lack useful tools and/or vision. The company I work for has a fantastic resource that you can access free for a month. Though I never advertise it, I really do think it’s the best out there, and it’s my job to know about what’s out there.

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February 15th, 2012

How to Save a Public School: The Impact of the Common Core Standards

public school last day of school

By Cameron Pipkin

For all of the flack that public schools take in the media, you know who might be causing them the most harm? All of us. The average, everyday middle class schmuck who wants to impress his friends and coworkers with stories that make his high school sound like Pelican Bay. Seriously, for every tale that’s told about the hero English teacher, you hear about a dozen gang fights, locker raids, and bomb threats. Public schools’ worst enemy might be the terrible word of mouth PR they suffer a thousand times a day.

I have to admit, though, I’m guilty of bad mouthing my public education. Like many of you, I was a teenager before NCLB, Common Core Standards, and the rest of it, and I’m convinced that I went to the worst school in the country. I used to joke that I would have been better off home schooled at the Koresh compound. That’s why I always like to tease my wife, who grew up in a wealthy neighborhood and went to a fancy private school where they counted numbers on an abacus and were told how special they were on a daily basis. I can’t be absolutely sure, but I’d bet they graduated students 9 out of 10 students.

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February 9th, 2012

Is Testing Hurting Your Students?

Cameron Pipkin

In a world where every third spam pop-up offers a free "IQ test," it might be worth asking ourselves what an assessment can really measure. Can it tell you you’re smart? Can it tell you you’re dumb? Can it boil your value down to a simple number?

I have my doubts about the usefulness of tests, but my sister’s pretty sure they’re spot on. A test changed her life forever.


She never talks about it, but I remember it clearly. It was in 1991, when she was in the 6th grade. The school year was winding down, and she had to take an exam that would place her approriately in junior high. I had aced the exam the year before, and as a result had ended up in a “gifted” education program the next year.

I guess my sister expected a high score too, because when the exam came back and she saw the results—she tested in the 47th percentile—she went straight to her room and cried.

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February 8th, 2012

Will the Common Core Affect Who Teaches Our Children?

teachers talkingBy Cameron Pipkin

Jack Jennings, president and CEO of the Center on Education Policy wrote a paper recently in which he outlined the last 50 years of education reform—what has been done, what worked, and what didn’t.

Jennings is pretty down on most of what’s been accomplished, and cites the Common Core Standards as perhaps the best thing to come out of what he calls the “standards” movement of the past. However, he also claims that the Standards aren’t enough; that our country must be bold in its education reform. He says:

For half a century, external remedies have been tried and are not sufficient. If American education is to see major improvement, it is time to concentrate on the core components of what happens in the classroom—who is teaching, what is being taught, and how those key elements are funded.

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February 7th, 2012

Will Money Fix Schools?

common core standards moneyBy Cameron Pipkin

Am I getting cynical, or could money at the bottom every problem anyone’s ever had? Political strife, failed marriages, war, bad Chinese food, all of it. Or is it just Americans? Are we the most money obsessed people on earth?

Iif you accept that money really is what ails us, then there’s another premise I’d like to offer up. Is it possible that money can fix our problems as easily as it’s caused them? As someone who possesses very little of the stuff, I could see how this might make sense. Wealthy nations of the world seem to suffer much less from the hunger, disease, and war that afflicts the rest of mankind. On the other hand, some of the most miserable people I know have a lot packed away in the bank.

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February 2nd, 2012

How My High School Education Failed Me

Do ACT Scores Measure My SuccessToday I had the pleasure of visiting with a very intelligent young woman—a high school senior—who had some interesting things to say about her 12 years in the public school system. As we talked, it struck me how many of the problems she described are exactly what the Common Core Standards seek to amend: lack of focused curriculum; lack of differentiated classroom practice; schools tied down to an antiquated system of testing. I was so impressed with her insight that I asked her if she wouldn’t be willing to write as a guest on my blog. Below is the post that she sent me.

The final evaluation of my entire high school education was facing me in a quiet square room. I was about to take the ACT. Not only would this test tell me if I really got something out of the 12 years that I sat in a classroom, but it would also shape my future. A month later after taking this test, I received a letter that would contain one number—my score. 30 was my goal, and 30 is what I felt I was smart enough to get. Disappointment hit when I saw those two numbers… 22.

The judgment was swift, and the verdict clear: I am average. At least, I’m average by their standards. But what did they know, those guys correcting my test? Was it truly an assessment of my capabilities? I remember sitting in a desk, but I can do so much more than fill in bubbles.

The priorities of this “Factory Model of Education” puts control, standardized testing, and cost effectiveness above the excellence of our education. Every year there are millions and millions of dollars spent on standardized testing programs to prove that teachers have created the ideal product the government is looking for.

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January 31st, 2012

Are the Common Core Standards a Trojan Horse?

are the feds using a trojan horseBy Cameron Pipkin

Many of you may be following the legislative battles popping up around the country in the wake of 45 states adopting the Common Core Standards. A group in Alabama recently made a push to cut the Standards (they failed, though they could try again) and just a few days ago a similar bill was quashed in the Indiana State Legislature.  

For all of the unabashed cheerleading I do for the Standards, the folks in Alabama and Indiana make some compelling points that those of us implementing the Standards might consider.

In Indiana, really, the issue of the Common Core State Standards comes down to two concerns: first, a question over whether the CCSS are actually a step up or a step down from the standards that currently exist in the state, and second, whether the Standards represent a federal encroachment upon state and local control in schools.

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January 27th, 2012

New Common Core Survey Reveals Challenges of Implementation

Apple and DeskBy Cameron Pipkin

The Center on Education Policy (CEP) released a study on Wednesday that provides some enlightening insight into the Common Core Standards. You can link to it from here, and read an article on it that appeared in the Huffington Post here.

There’s a lot in the report, but I’ll cover some of the points that appear most pertinent to those of us attempting to implement the Standards. To begin with, a little bit about the study. The CEP reports that:

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January 25th, 2012

Planning Workshop for Professional Development on the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics

Arizona State UniversityBy Cameron Pipkin

I came across a Common Core event going on in Tucson AZ, hosted by the University of Arizona. For those of you in the area, it sounds like a great opportunity to learn more about implementing the math Standards. I’m currently communicating with the folks heading the workshop to find out if any of the training or information they produce will be available online. In the meantime, here are a few links that explain the event in detail:

Here’s a link to the blog written by Bill McCallum, one of the professors heading up the event. You’ll find a brief bio of Professor McCallum here.

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January 24th, 2012

Kiddie Politics: Standards Assessments in Florida and Elsewhere

Pre-K Common Core StandardsBy Cameron Pipkin

As those of you who follow this blog know, I’ve been on a pre-K kick for the last week or so. It’s hard to say what it is about pre-K Common Core Standards that’s so compelling, but I can’t take my eyes off of them. Maybe it’s how riled up we’re all getting over the issue. Google search it and see if I’m wrong.

Regardless, I now make a pledge to you, dear reader, that this will be my last pre-K entry (at least till it comes through my RSS feed again; keep your fingers crossed).

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January 19th, 2012

Common Core Pre-K Standards: Fostering the Right Skills?

Pre-K Common Core StandardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Yesterday’s post about the possibility of pre-K Common Core Standards received quite a response, and gave me a lot to think about. It reminded me, for starters, that I am no expert when it comes to early childhood education. My thanks to our readers who engaged in what I thought was a markedly intelligent and compelling discussion over pre-K learning and the Common Core State Standards. So, I’ve hit the books again, or at least the search bar, and found some things that I think you might find challenging. First, I came across an article on Scholastic online written by Ellen H. Parlapiano. In the article, which you can find here, Ms. Parlapiano collects a group of what she calls “highly regarded kindergarten teachers” and asks them to list the skills that they and their colleagues hope new students possess. The following is her answer:

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January 18th, 2012

Common Core Pre-K Standards

per k common core standardsBy Cameron Pipkin

I’m not one of those people who remembers life all the way back to inception. My earliest memory is of preschool—actually, of my decision to go to preschool. I clearly remember putting on a Velcro tennis shoe while my mother asked me whether I wanted to be in “day school.” I must have expressed some uncertainty, because she had to entice me with the promise of cookies and the company of my best friend Jeff, whose parents had put him in the same program.

Other than that, my only memories of preschool are limited to a swing set, “my dad can beat up your dad” disputes, and the perplexing scent of cigarette smoke on Santa Claus one Christmas.



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January 17th, 2012

Common Core Standards That Live and Breathe

Common Core Standards Heidi Hayes Jacobs

By Cameron Pipkin

I was excited this morning to get the chance to attend a presentation given by author, educator, Common Core Standards expert, and all around mover and shaker, Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs. Dr. Jacobs will be visiting us here at School Improvement Network for the next couple of days; tomorrow she’ll be putting on a Common Core themed webinar hosted by some of my friends here at the company. You can register at this website, but hurry, space is limited and our server is blowing up with people wanting to attend.

Anyhow, just thought I’d share a couple of thoughts from Dr. Jacobs. First, a quote (I scribbled it down as she said it, so it might not be word for word):

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January 13th, 2012

New York Commissioner King Letter

New York Commissioner KingBy Cameron Pipkin

Found this letter posted at, a website created to help New York teachers keep up on and collaborate over reform. As quoted from EngageNY:

The following message from Commissioner King was emailed to over 240,000 educators statewide on January 9, 2012.

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Year! I want to take this opportunity to wish you, your families, your students, and your school communities a safe, healthy, and happy 2012. As we embark on a new year, New York continues to be a leader in education reform. The role you play in your classrooms is the critical element in our state’s reform efforts.

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January 11th, 2012

Common Core and the Model Method: Too Restrictive?

Math Sheet and Common Core Standards

By Cameron Pipkin

In my last post I argued that the Common Core State Standards give freedom to educators because, rather than answers on a test, they lay out broad(ish) guidelines for teaching.

Some readers, however, pointed out to me that using the word “freedom” for these Standards might be inaccurate. They sent me the first few lines of the Mathematics Standards, which begin with quotes that support the “Model” or “Singapore” Method of teaching math. The Standards read:

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January 10th, 2012

Further Evidence That the Common Core is a Step Forward

Bubble Sheet

By Cameron Pipkin

More news has emerged in the developing narrative of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Adopted by 44 states, the Standards (as I have claimed in previous posts) are a response to, if not a direct descendent of, NCLB. Whereas the NCLB established assessments out of which curriculum developed, CCSS has taken the opposite approach, establishing curriculum and allowing assessments to form around what is taught.

It’s interesting that to take a step forward, Common Core supporters are taking a step back into the distant past, to a time of landline telephones and dangerously large bottles of gels and liquids walking through airport security. Prior to those days, there was nothing novel about testing kids on what a teacher taught. It’s the way curriculum had been planned for generations.

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January 6th, 2012

Common Core Flexilbility

Margaret Spelling and Common Core Standards

I post this not as a correction, but a clarification of yesterday’s post. Many of you may have read the series of articles published in Ed Week on Jan 5th, commemorating NCLB’s 10th anniversary (time flies!) and commiserating over its value and legacy.

One of the featured articles in the series is written by George Miller, and doesn’t appear entirely reflective of the stance I characterized him as taking in my post yesterday. It appears that while he defends NCLB, he also agrees that it needs to be updated. He outlines some of the lessons that NCLB has taught America, and concludes by asserting, among other things, that new education reform needs to be “flexib[le] for states and districts.”

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January 5th, 2012

Common Core and NCLB

Margaret Spelling and Common Core Standards

An interesting discussion has popped up online recently that I’ve been meaning to share. A few weeks ago on her blog, National Journal writer Fawn Johnson cornered two of the chief architects of the now much-maligned No Child Left Behind— Margaret Spelling, Secretary of Education under Bush Jr., and George Miller, D-Calif—and asked them to share their thoughts on the Common Core Standards. Their responses were unsurprising.

Both Spellings and Miller defended the legislation that they played such a key part in passing, and cautioned that the Standards should in no way replace the basic academic requirements of NCLB.



A little of both?

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January 4th, 2012

The New Standards Are for Sharing

Writing College and Career Readiness Anchor StandardsBy Cameron Pipkin

Sitting in the lunchroom here at School Improvement Network, it’s becoming clear that many of the educators our people are talking to about the Common Core State Standards are saying the same thing: “Common Core looks really familiar, because we’re already using standards, and have been for years.” My mother, a 3rd grade teacher, in fact, made this point to me just a few days ago. She said, and I quote, “all this ‘standard’ business is getting redundant.” Which begs the question: are the Common Core Standards any different than what we’ve been up against for years? Well, the Standards clearly didn’t appear out of thin air. As I look them over, it’s apparent that they’ve been influenced by other standards: present is the spiral design, the grade specific objectives, etc.

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November 22nd, 2011

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

Writing College and Career Readiness Anchor StandardsAs a writer, English student, and former teacher, I find the writing standards particularly interesting—above all because I have been appalled at the writing instruction that our students don’t receive. Now, as a professional writer, I’m interested in seeing just how the Common Core Standards measure up to “college and career readiness” in my own field.

The question in my mind is not what the Standards will do for children. The Common Core Standards are a list, words, published in several media all to the same goal: to assist teachers. The potential of the Common Core Standards has not as much to do with what they say as with how teachers will use them.

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November 21st, 2011

Virginia and the Common Core Standards

Virginia Department of EducationEven when states aren’t using the Common Core Standards, they still find themselves, well, using the Common Core Standards. Take Virginia, for example. In an article published by the Virginia-Pilot, Virginia’s educational standards are shown to mirror the purpose of the Common Core Standards.

It’s an appropriate move for the Commonwealth—Virginia was part of the committee to create the Common Core State Standards Initiative. So after all the work they put in to creating these Standards, why defer participation?

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November 17th, 2011

Language Progressive Skills

Language Progressive Skills ChartThe Language Progressive Skills are the perfect example of why the Common Core Standards actually help us do our jobs rather than inhibiting our choices. The table to the right (click on it to make it expand) is exactly what we are trying to accomplish with our students—and the Common Core Standards have put our goals into a linear format that is easy to follow and, to a point, quantify.

On page 32 of the ELA Standards, you find the table labeled “Text Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, and Range of Student Reading K-5.” The table gives a list of suggested texts suitable for certain grades, but here’s the important part:

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November 16th, 2011

The Administrator's Role in Common Core Integration

teacher in common core classroomNow that the emphasis is shifting to formative assessments and student learning, educational practices must also shift. This doesn't just happen in the classroom, but it must be a school-wide integration. Administrators, for example, can expect a significant change in their day-to-day duties.

One of the many jobs of an administrator is classroom observations. Observations are viewed differently by different people and institutions, but the general purpose of classroom observations is to ensure that a teacher's practices and techniques are effective. Now, with Common Core integration, an administrator must also observe how well a teacher integrates Common Core concepts and skills into their existing lesson plans. In order to do this, an administrator must know the Common Core well and have a good idea as to what Common Core lessons, effective formative assessments, and student mastery look like. 

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November 15th, 2011

ELA College and Career Readiness--What It Means, How to Get There

college and career readiness graduation assembly“College and career readiness” is an excellent idea, but what does it mean? What does a college-and-career-ready student look like?

I think that the beauty of the Common Core Standards is our ability to manipulate them—to use them in order to do our job better rather than feeling dictated by them. The Common Core Standards give us the skills that students need to be prepared. They also tell us what that preparedness looks like.

The Standards say, “As students advance through the grades and master the standards in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language, they are able to exhibit with increasing fullness and regularity these capacities of the literate individual.” Here are the seven ways to identify an ELA Standards college and career ready student:

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November 14th, 2011

Choice and American Education: A Story

American Education Common Core 360

Before the 1900s when school became compulsory, people went to school because they wanted to learn. Virgil and Homer weren’t going to make people better farmers, better ranchers, or better clerks. But people knew that literature, math, and science could help them become simply better: better people, better citizens, and perhaps even better families.

But poverty, war, and industrialization took children away from farm and family and put them in terrible conditions in factories. Child labor laws eked themselves out with major advances coming in 1904, 1914, 1916, and even as late as 1938. Children were removed from factories and placed into schools, and teachers needed something to do with them. They didn’t quite know what the goal would be.

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November 11th, 2011

What is Not Covered by the Standards

Common Core State Standards LogoThe Standards should be recognized for what they are not as well as what they are. The most important intentional design limitations are as follows:

1. The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach. For instance, the use of play with young children is not specified by the Standards, but it is welcome as a valuable activity in its own right and as a way to help students meet the expectations in this document. Furthermore, while the Standards make references to some particular forms of content, including mythology, foundational U.S. documents, and Shakespeare, they do not—indeed, cannot—enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn. The Standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum consistent with the expectations laid out in this document. 

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November 10th, 2011

Montana Adopts Common Core State Standards

46 States Adopt Common Core State StandardsSorry I’m a few days late in making the announcement—late on November 3, 2011, Montana becomes the 46th state to officially adopt the Common Core State Standards. Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, and Alaska are the remaining states. Virginia and Nebraska were participants in creating the Standards, though they have not officially participated in their adoption.

In this map from the official Common Core State Standards Initiative website, Minnesota is not included as having adopted the Standards. Minnesota has adopted the ELA Standards, but not the math, so the state goes both ways:

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November 10th, 2011

Alabama's Common Core Conflict

Alabama Common Core empty deskAlabama State Board of Education recently voted on whether or not to rescind their participation in the Common Core Standards. After heavy campaigning against the new Standards, a campaign supported by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, the board voted 6-3 in favor of the Standards.

Governor Bentley’s argument against the Common Core was that each state should set its own Standards. The problem with that argument is that each state has had the opportunity to review the Standards and accept them or defer. Because the Standards are not (or at least were not originally) compulsory, the widespread acceptance of the Standards attests to their quality.

But the dust has still not settled on a tumultuous educational landscape. Now that the state will continue to follow the Common Core Standards, the board must turn to another pressing issue: choosing a new state superintendent.

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November 9th, 2011

What the Standards Have to Say about History and Science

Common Core Standards Curriculum Integration

Curriculum integration is a vital part of the Common Core Standards—the ELA Standards in the Standards focus on how English Language Arts relate to other areas, a wide departure from the former model of each subject being separate and distinct. By focusing on other areas, the Common Core brings college and career readiness to bear in the simple, day-to-day use of a topic. For example, college courses and career environments require that a person bring all talents to bear on any given project.

The Common Core Standards state, “The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (‘the Standards’) are the culmination of an extended, broad-based effort to fulfill the charge issued by the states to create the next generation of K–12 standards in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school” (3).

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November 7th, 2011

How Kentucky Plans to Integrate Common Core Training

Kentucky Common Core Training

Kentucky was the first state to officially adopt the Common Core Standards—a bold move that preceded official adoption by 43 other states and participation by another four states. Now that 48 states play a role in the Common Core Standards, will they look to Kentucky to see if they will lead other states in integrating the Standards?

The plan: train from two directions. One part of plan includes giving Common Core training to the leaders and let it trickle down to the teachers—a tried method with varying degrees of success. The “grassroots” part of the campaign—or training for those in the trenches, as I prefer to think of it—is much more involved than ever before on a statewide training plan.

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November 4th, 2011

Harvard Publishes 5 Myths about the Common Core

Something in Common

Isn't validation wonderful? Harvard Education Letter recently published a review of the Common Core Standards, responding to the major concerns--and errors--that educators have about their States New Standards. 

“The Common Core State Standards are one of the most significant initiatives in American education in decades. Yet the swiftness with which they were developed and adopted has left educators uncertain about exactly what they are. A number of myths about the standards have emerged,” says Robert Rothman in the Harvard Education Letter.

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November 4th, 2011

Common Core Designed to Give Teachers Flexibility, Says Curtis Linton

Curtis Linton Common Core WebinarIf you missed Curtis Linton’s webinar yesterday, then you missed out. Linton gave excellent insights and practical points to the Common Core Standards that answered many questions that the 350 attendees posed. In fact, the Q&A session went about 20 – 30 minutes over the planned timeframe for the webinar while people discussed their concerns with Linton.

Almost as if in response to my blog post two days ago, Linton gave this quotable quote: 

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November 2nd, 2011

Myths Persist Surrounding College and Career Readiness Standards

Common Core Standards ChangesDespite their best efforts to spread the word on the Common Core Standards, many educators at all levels are still in the dark on the nature, purpose, and vision of the college and career readiness standards proposed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

As your complete understanding of the Common Core Standards is our quest, I would like to bring a few vital elements to light. Let’s start with the origins of the Standards:

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November 1st, 2011

Comparing Current Practices with Common Core

test bubble sheet, common core, common core standards

Modern education in America has been hijacked by standardized tests. Teachers are teaching what they know will be tested. Because of NCLB, their jobs and the survival of their schools are dependent on test scores that show adequate yearly progress.

The Common Core State Standards, if effectively integrated, fundamentally change the ways we assess our students. Today, we give our students equal access to education regardless of cultural, racial, or economic background. But equal access clearly isn't enough. 

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October 31st, 2011

Texas District Aligns Interests with Common Core

Superintendent Robert Duron of San Antonio does not have a mandate to implement the Common Core Standards. Texas is one of only two states (the other being Alaska) that is not an initiative member of the Common Core State Standards. Even so, college and career readiness is the first thing on Mr. Duron’s agenda.

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October 28th, 2011

Common Core Webinar Series Is Here!

The Common Core 360 team is hosting a special webinar series with educational experts Curtis Linton, Ann Johnson, Debbie Sullivan, and Lisa Leith!

The first webinar is coming next Thursday, Nov. 3, from 8:30 - 9:30 MST--early enough for the east coast without being too early for the west coast. The webinar is entitled, "Common Core 101: Why, What, and How," by Curtis Linton. Here are the details:

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October 27th, 2011

Believing in Equity through Common Core Standards

When a school system becomes equitable, it helps all students not only succeed in each grade and graduate, but prepares them for college, career, and life beyond schooling.

A root cause of the achievement gap occurs when educators work in silos with little collaboration at the state, district, school, and classroom levels. With the Common Core standards, educators nationwide can create a national community of practice.  With the use of digital communication, the alignment of standards-based learning targets presents new potential for sharing innovative instructional designs, authentic assessment, and effective intervention strategies across district and state lines.

National consensus about academic standards opens the door to more collaboration and synergy, thus increasing efficiency, lowering costs, and freeing scarce resources to fund proven gap-reducing strategies such as increasing technology access, decreasing class sizes, and providing proven interventions and support.

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October 25th, 2011

Framework for Common Core Standards

The Common Core Standards define learning expectations for mathematics and the English language arts.

The goal of the Common Core initiative is to standardize and advance the educational experience of students across the country, prepare ALL students for college and career, and enable them to participate successfully in a global culture and economy.

Kentucky State Governor Steve Beshear says of the Standards, “We need our children to be able to compete in this twenty-first century.  And, that’s what I see the Common Core Standards helping us to do is getting our children, uh, knowing what they need to learn, uh, knowing how they need to think and be creative.  Knowing how they need to be able to problem solve so that as they come out of high school, as they go on into college or they go on into a career of some kind, uh, they’re gonna have the skills that it takes to compete, not only with their peers here in Kentucky or their, their peers in our surrounding states, but really they’ve got to compete with kids from all over the world.”

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October 24th, 2011

4 Stages of Implementation

There are 4 typical stages within state and district Common Core implementation that frame a Common Core initiative. Though each educational system will create its own pathway towards standards implementation and mastery (for educators and for students), many will find success in following a version of the stages illustrated here.            

Stage 1 of Common Core Implementation is Standards Messaging and Awareness. The Purpose of the work during stage 1 is to build understanding, ownership, optimism, and momentum in all those who join in the work of the Common Core at every level.

In deciding to adopt the Common Core, leaders considered the impact that Common Core would have on student outcomes, particularly on college and career readiness. This expected result should be communicated clearly and then will be relevant, positive, and compelling. 

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October 21st, 2011

Skills vs. Assessments: The Heart of Common Core

Skills, not tests, are at the heart of the common core standards.Because the Common Core Standards are performance skills defined at each grade level, teachers and students alike understand much more clearly what students are supposed to achieve in each grade.   Likewise, students see a clear path in the learning that leads to high-school graduation, college, and career.

Most standardized assessments do not provide an accurate reflection of what students know and can do.  Common Core targets provide clear learning goals for more accurate progress monitoring and summative assessments. When learning goals are clear, authentic assessment of student progress towards those targets is easier to achieve.  Reliability and accuracy of assessment results is critical to informing effective data-driven decision-making, and for choosing targeted interventions that significantly impact student success. Because the Common Core explicitly frames knowledge and performance expectations, the Standards offer clear learning goals to define success for every child, whatever the child’s race and socio-economic background may be.

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October 20th, 2011

Finding the Achievement Gap

A root cause of the achievement gap occurs when educators work in silos with little collaboration at the state, district, school and classroom levels. With the Common Core Standards, educators nationwide can create a national community of practice.  With the use of digital communication, the alignment of standards-based learning targets presents new potential for sharing innovative instructional designs, authentic assessment and effective intervention strategies across district and state lines. Educators can access this resource bank of best-known practices to better meet student needs across content areas and across a diverse array of student profiles.

Limited systems for taking best practice to scale increase disparities between student groups. Widespread adoption of the Common Core standards will increase opportunities to share best practice, and will help teachers close achievement gaps by aligning rigorous learning targets and high expectations with clear knowledge, and performance goals for all students, of every background.  

Achievement gaps have been perpetuated due to the inequitable and inefficient use of educational resources at the local, state, and national levels. Embracing college and career readiness expectations for all students will ensure more equitable and efficient use of educational resources as this goal will drive state and district accountability. National consensus about academic standards opens the door to more collaboration and synergy, thus increasing efficiency, lowering costs, and freeing scarce resources to fund proven gap-reducing strategies such as increasing technology access, decreasing class sizes, and providing proven interventions and support.  Educator fidelity to the goal of college and career readiness, as defined by the progressions within the common core, will grant access to robust and individualized learning opportunities for every U.S. student.

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October 18th, 2011

Educational Equity in the Common Core

One of the most egregious issues facing the American public education system is pervasive systemic inequity in student learning represented most acutely by the persistent racial and economic achievement gaps.

“Educational equity” is defined by Curtis Linton in his book Equity 101: “Educators provide all students with the individualized support they need to reach and exceed a common standard.”

The goal of equity is not equal access to a good K-12 education, but sufficiently equal results and preparation upon graduation from high school for each and every student.  When a school system becomes equitable, it helps all students not only succeed in each grade and graduate, but prepares them for college, career, and life beyond schooling.

As illustrated by recent ACT scores of college-bound U.S. high school students according to race and income, different student groups predictably achieve at different rates, thus showing that they are inequitably prepared for college and career.  This means that white, Asian, and wealthy students begin their post-secondary education more prepared on average than other students.  This inequity in student preparation significantly explains why students of color and those from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to do less well in college and advanced career training.

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October 14th, 2011

Common Core Impacting Teaching and Learning

The focus of educational practice has shifted to an emphasis on teaching and learning in the classroom.  At the end of the day, educational outcomes are shaped, defined and driven by what happens in the classroom between teacher and student. 

In meeting the educational needs of our nation’s children, teachers are on the front lines.  Though states set policy and allocate funds, districts strategically plan, and directors of curriculum, content specialists and instructional coaches build capacity, it is ultimately the school-level educators  who determine the quality of the day-to-day classroom experience of their students.  It is the teachers who create classroom culture, define learning targets, plan lessons, deliver instruction and assess learning.

Many teachers view their work from a lens that acknowledges the cyclical nature of teaching and learning.  This teaching and learning cycle guides the definition of learning targets, the design of instructional delivery, the creation and administration of assessments and the selection of targeted interventions in response to individual student needs.

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October 14th, 2011

Common Core Impacting Teaching and Learning

The focus of educational practice has shifted to an emphasis on teaching and learning in the classroom.  At the end of the day, educational outcomes are shaped, defined and driven by what happens in the classroom between teacher and student. 

In meeting the educational needs of our nation’s children, teachers are on the front lines.  Though states set policy and allocate funds, districts strategically plan, and directors of curriculum, content specialists and instructional coaches build capacity, it is ultimately the school-level educators  who determine the quality of the day-to-day classroom experience of their students.  It is the teachers who create classroom culture, define learning targets, plan lessons, deliver instruction and assess learning.

Many teachers view their work from a lens that acknowledges the cyclical nature of teaching and learning.  This teaching and learning cycle guides the definition of learning targets, the design of instructional delivery, the creation and administration of assessments and the selection of targeted interventions in response to individual student needs.

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October 13th, 2011

A Quick Note on Applying Learning Progressions

There are separate learning progressions for Reading Literature and Reading Informational Text within the English language arts standards. Each of the ELA learning progressions can readily be traced from Kindergarten through 12th grade, leading to college and career readiness as defined by the ELA and literacy Anchor Standards. The Math Standards progressions, on the other hand, cannot so easily be traced. The learning progression is not as clearly marked because certain math concepts may be learned simultaneously or may be successfully sequenced in various ways.

The order in which the authors of the Mathematics Common Core arranged the standards is not intended to imply that they must be mastered in that order. However, there is guidance as to which standards must be learned during each grade level K-8 and which should be addressed during high school.  

Other can be learned about the unique nature of the mathematics progression within the appendices and supplemental materials offered within the Mathematics Standards document and also from exploring the Guidebook that is offered with this video. 

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October 13th, 2011

A Quick Note on Applying Learning Progressions

There are separate learning progressions for Reading Literature and Reading Informational Text within the English language arts standards. Each of the ELA learning progressions can readily be traced from Kindergarten through 12th grade, leading to college and career readiness as defined by the ELA and literacy Anchor Standards. The Math Standards progressions, on the other hand, cannot so easily be traced. The learning progression is not as clearly marked because certain math concepts may be learned simultaneously or may be successfully sequenced in various ways.

The order in which the authors of the Mathematics Common Core arranged the standards is not intended to imply that they must be mastered in that order. However, there is guidance as to which standards must be learned during each grade level K-8 and which should be addressed during high school.  

Other can be learned about the unique nature of the mathematics progression within the appendices and supplemental materials offered within the Mathematics Standards document and also from exploring the Guidebook that is offered with this video. 

Learn more

October 13th, 2011

A Quick Note on Applying Learning Progressions

There are separate learning progressions for Reading Literature and Reading Informational Text within the English language arts standards. Each of the ELA learning progressions can readily be traced from Kindergarten through 12th grade, leading to college and career readiness as defined by the ELA and literacy Anchor Standards. The Math Standards progressions, on the other hand, cannot so easily be traced. The learning progression is not as clearly marked because certain math concepts may be learned simultaneously or may be successfully sequenced in various ways.

The order in which the authors of the Mathematics Common Core arranged the standards is not intended to imply that they must be mastered in that order. However, there is guidance as to which standards must be learned during each grade level K-8 and which should be addressed during high school.  

Other can be learned about the unique nature of the mathematics progression within the appendices and supplemental materials offered within the Mathematics Standards document and also from exploring the Guidebook that is offered with this video. 

Learn more

October 12th, 2011

Framework for Learning Progressions

An effective learning progression framework relies upon equitably meeting the learning needs of every student, until each student achieves mastery.

Within this student-centered approach, teachers act as facilitators of learning rather than administers of knowledge. The pedagogy that drives the standards-based learning progression is a responsive instructional model—teachers adapt instruction to serve individual student aptitudes, behaviors, and needs. Students learn to reflect, analyze, integrate and further develop their cognitive skills. The Common Core helps students explore ideas, systems and relationships.

Within the standards-based learning progressions, teachers are advised to focus less on coverage (or breadth) and more on depth of learning. This helps teachers to increase the rigor and depth of the learning that occurs and requires committing more time to fewer concepts.

As schools are implementing the Common Core across the nation, teachers have more opportunities to collaborate with one another and to increase productivity.  In response to the learning progressions defined by the Common Core, teachers are encouraged to align curriculum horizontally (with other teachers who teach the same grade), and vertically (with teachers who teach in the grades above and below).

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October 11th, 2011

What is the Learning Progression?

The Common Core Standards are woven into clear and developmentally aligned learning progressions that chart a course from kindergarten through college readiness. A learning progression is a sequenced set of aligned standards that students must master in order to graduate prepared for life beyond school.

The Common Core Standards reflect a spiraling progression that is sequential and yet recursive. As students make progress, the learning targets do not change essentially, but continue to expand in breadth and depth, allowing teachers and students multiple opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills defined by the standards.

The long-term goal of the Common Core Standards is college and career readiness. After creators of the core standards defined college and career readiness, incremental steps towards skill mastery were assigned to each academic level all the way back to kindergarten. At each level, the standards build on what has been learned in previous grades. In order to master the eighth grade standards, for example, a student must have attained mastery of the kindergarten through seventh grade standards. Upon mastering the standards of eighth grade, the student will be adequately prepared for success in ninth grade and beyond.

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October 10th, 2011

College, Career, and 21st Century Readiness

The new Common Core Standards define a common destination where all students are expected to arrive by the time they graduate from high school. The college and career readiness standards (also called “anchor standards” in the English Language Arts Common Core) describe the destination:  the essential proficiencies students need to ensure adequate preparation for college and career success.

These college and career readiness proficiencies are intentionally aligned with the highest order thinking skills, such as application, analysis and evaluation. These skills are merged with essential 21st Century skills such as collaboration, communication, adaptability and critical thinking.

The steps of the journey towards post-secondary readiness are clearly marked along the way by grade-level milestones.  These milestones are designed to be sequential and progressive, but they are also recursive.

Beginning with the Kindergarten standards, which describe foundational and basic knowledge and skills, the standards, at every level, describe fundamental elements of the post-secondary readiness standards. As students move through intermediary grades, the learning targets described by the grade level standards continue to expand in breadth and depth.  In middle school, some of the highest priority content for college and career readiness occurs during grades 6th through 8th.  This progression continues through High school, allowing teachers and students multiple opportunities to develop the essential skills that define college and career readiness.

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October 7th, 2011

The Gift of Choice

Because the Common Core Standards define what students should know and be able to do at each grade level, these standards guide teachers as they plan and teach standards-based lessons, conduct assessments and target interventions.  Because these standards have been backward-mapped, with a clear definition of college and career readiness in mind, they create alignment between planning, instruction, assessment, and desired results.

Much like a DNA molecule provides the genetic code for developing human life, the Common Core offers a blueprint and the building blocks for academic and career success in the world of the future.

State-by-state adoption of the Common Core Standards presents a unique opportunity for our nation’s education systems to align a common set of academic performance standards with professional practice –thus aligning desired results for all students with classroom-level instruction and assessment.

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October 6th, 2011

What They Have and Why We Need It

As students graduate from K-12 public education systems across the United States, there is profound variance across state lines in the knowledge and skills students possess.  Furthermore, there has been limited collaboration around how to effectively prepare students to become successful participants in the global context of the 21st Century.

Though standards and the teaching they inspire vary across state lines, American educators share a common passion:  They care deeply about the success of each and every student that they teach.

Yet, the challenges faced by teachers and their students today are immense, both at the individual and societal level.  Collectively, US students are falling further behind their peers in international standings for math and science. Out of 48 countries in 2010, US 15-year olds ranked 18th in science and 26th in math proficiency. But what do those countries that ranked at the top in math and science do so right that America is not? They all have well-established educational standards-- goals that everybody aspires to reach.

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October 5th, 2011

Seth Hunter Interview KY Common Core

The purpose of education has always been clear: Prepare all students for their future.  But the policy and structure of public education in the U.S. has not always clearly supported educators in achieving this goal.

We must keep in mind is that the problem—and the solution—focus on the efficiency of the system. As the system improves, teachers have more capacity to bring their full expertise and passion for education to bear. Though there are ineffective teachers (just as there are ineffective people in every profession), the majority of teachers are talented individuals who are in need of training and reform.

Significant reform is occurring that has potential to touch every aspect of K-12 education.  Across the nation, in states, districts, and schools, the Common Core State Standards are reframing educator conversations.

The Common Core Standards are future focused. They define what each and every American student should know and be able to do upon graduation from our public schools. They differ from past legislation in that they focus—finally—on the purpose of education: to prepare all students for their future. No other form of legislation has focused on the student as the Common Core Standards now do.

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July 28th, 2011

Your state has adopted the Common Core Standards! Now what?

The transition from your current standards to the new Common Core will be largely defined by the extent to which standards-based practice already guides your curriculum, instruction, and assessments, your professional development and program evaluation.  Differentiation of transition plans, across diverse systems and various educator backgrounds is key to achieving successful launch of a Common Core initiative.
Start with the question: What impact have our current state standards had on the policy and practice in your district, school or classroom? Consider the amount of emphasis and accountability that has been placed on teaching to your state’s standards, and on assessing student and teacher progress towards reaching the teaching and learning targets defined by those standards.  Are your state standards represented in your lesson planning, your curriculum choices, your school and district improvement plans? 
If your educational practice and policy are already standards-driven, you can begin the transition to the Common Core by reinforcing the understanding and consensus that already exists within your community about the benefits of standards-based education.  You will then collaborate to create a “crosswalk” between the old and new Common Core Standards.  A simple spreadsheet matrix is an effective tool for comparing current standards with the Common Core, as you highlight what will need to change, what will need to be adapted and what can stay the same as you progressively roll-out your transition to the Common Core Standards within the current standards-based framework.  This Crosswalk is a useful exercise at the state, district, school and even the classroom level, as each practitioner must proactively transition (and transform) from old to new.
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July 7th, 2011

Utah Education Moves Toward Common Core Standards

On June 22, KPCW radio interviewed Curtis Linton, an expert in equity education and differentiation and vice-president of School Improvement Network, on the Common Core Standards. Below is a transcript of the interview. You can also find the audio version at

Leslie Thatcher: Curtis Linton has spent the last year visiting schools in states which have adopted the Common Core Standards. Historically, he says, with 50 states, American education has had 50 different education programs. These nationwide standards, he says, will not only help the U.S. become more economically competitive, but student performance and learning will improve.

Curtis Linton: What the Common Core State Standards focus on is fundamentally creating a common set of learning that states can adapt. Now one thing to keep in mind with this is that this was not developed by the federal government. Consortiums of states across the U.S. came together and said let’s write a new curriculum – a very rigorous curriculum, much more rigorous than most state curriculums. Let’s allow states to adapt this one by one across the country so that collectively – and now it’s up to 48 states – collectively we can be very competitive on the world stage.

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July 7th, 2011

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Common Core 360

Take Advantage of New Common Core Tools to Achieve Educational Excellence

My name is Curtis Linton, and I’ve devoted my life to making special movies that prove educational equity really is possible. My video crew and I travel the world documenting excellence for our professional development videos in PD 360.

PD 360 gives the world’s largest community of educators access to advanced teaching tools. These include my videos, which feature dozens of experts in education sharing information on a broad range of topics in real-life classroom settings. I focus on schools in which racial, economic, gender and ethnic gaps are closing, and educational equity is growing.

Educational equity doesn’t mean teaching every student the same. It means that educators provide all students with the individual support they need to reach and exceed a common standard. And that standard – Common Core – has been adopted by over 40 states.

To help you stay ahead of the curve on the new Common Core standards, I’m pleased to introduce Common Core 360. Register online to win one year of free access to Common Core 360. You’ll also receive a free trial of PD 360, plus weekly emails with teaching strategies, and access to our professional learning community for life. And, last but not least, you’ll get a chance to win a free iPad 2.

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July 7th, 2011

School Improvement Network COMMON CORE Leader Forum

“Content Standards have been guiding educational practice and policy in the United States for more than 20 years. However, in spite of widespread consensus in support of standards-based education, states have continued to exercise relative autonomy in defining what their students should know and be able to do at each grade level.  Consequently, when families move to a new state, their students often find themselves well ahead of their grade-level peers or they may struggle to catch up with higher learning targets in their new school.

As students exit discrete and disconnected K-12 public education systems across the United States, there is profound variance, across state lines, in the knowledge and skills they possess. There is also limited collaboration between K-12 and post-secondary systems and little national agreement around how to effectively prepare students to become successful participants in the global context of the 21st Century.

Though standards and the lessons they inspire vary broadly across state lines, American teachers do share a common passion:  They care deeply about the success of each and every student that they teach. However, the challenges faced by teachers and their students today are immense. US students are falling farther behind their peers in international standings for math and science. In 2010, out of 48 countries, US 15-year-olds rank 18th in Science and 26th in Math proficiency. On National Public Radio Michael Davidson, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, was asked the question “What do those countries that ranked at the top in Math & Science do right?” His answer?  “They all have well-established educational standards. They have goals everybody aspires to reach.”

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