Common curricular resources do not prescribe how teachers must teach

01-Dec-2014

The author is Alyson Doherty, teacher at Stevenson Middle School. It was written to help dispel confusion between Common Core standards (goals for student learning) and curricular resources, which are aligned with standards and made available to support teachers. It originally ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Teaching

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By Allyson Doherty
Curriculum coordinator, Stevenson Middle School

From an outsider's perspective, it might seem like common curricular resources vetted by the state strip me of my creativity in the classroom, and prescribe how I need to teach my students.

However, from my perspective, I see a foundation, a common language and much-needed support.

Since the introduction of the common curricular resources in English language arts and mathematics, I have yet to hear an administrator or district or state office personnel tell me that teachers have to follow the resources page by page and word for word.

The message has been very clear: Our students come first and we, as trusted professionals, are capable of meeting the needs of those students.

What common curricular resources provide is just that — resources. Schools can use these, or they can use others they've selected. They just have to align with standards.

Hawaii, along with 43 other states, has adopted rigorous academic standards for all students — those are called the "Common Core​."  Now our school has some resources and materials that help us to ensure our students reach those standards. As a teacher, I can tell you, it's much better than making it up as you go along.

The resources that are provided contain quality questions to use to help me determine whether my students are meeting learning goals and, if not, where the breakdown occurs. They provide me with a plethora of materials that I can choose from, rearrange and adapt as I see fit to address the specific needs of my student population.

Trust me, what happens from one classroom to the next isn't identical just because we use the same materials. Each teacher is unique in his or her delivery of content, and each classroom has a different make-up of students.

A curricular resource does not take away my creativity in designing those lessons, nor my ability to meet the needs of my students. It gives me the tools I need to be an effective teacher.

These resources provide teachers with what we have been asking for for so long — support. They've been quality-reviewed by teams of our teachers from across the state, so I can trust them. We are no longer guessing at what the appropriate level of rigor looks like per grade level.

Time is no longer wasted trying to locate and reproduce grade-level reading material. Our beginning teachers finally have something to refer to, as they have a hard enough time acquiring the skills to be a good teacher, let alone finding and determining what is credible and appropriate for a grade level they have never taught before.

For the teachers and schools using these common resources, we also now have a foundation from which to collaborate, within and outside of our school bubbles.

Now when we have our school's formative instruction and data team meetings​, we know where our students stand and how to adapt to their needs.

Now when I attend professional development, I hear people talking the same language. We're sharing ideas and discussing what works for some kids and not for others. We are no longer envious of each other nor feel isolated from each other. We can connect and collaborate, just as we must, to elevate our profession and help students succeed.

Parents of public school kids can additionally take comfort in knowing that the steps toward student success is based on the same rigorous expectations for all — regardless of what school they are attending.

Other​​ teacher voices

  • ​​Want better schools? Better standards are the first step.​ — VIEW
  • PBS Insights: Education Reform in Hawaii​ — VIEW​
  • We want students to be thinkers, rather than answer-getters — VIEW
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