Monthly Archives: January, 2013

Common Core: A Promise? A Failure?

The choice is yours.  Is the glass half full?  Half empty?


Photo credit: Jim_sama (Creative Commons)

Last week Lucy Calkins said to a room full of educators, “We are at the intersection of promise, opportunity and public education.”*  That view allows you to see the “gold” in the Common Core.  

In many cases, the Common Core is a wake-up call.  How will YOU respond to the instructional challenge?

If you embrace the instructional design of the English Language Arts  Core and look for the “good” within, you can see that the ELA  K-12 Anchor Standards contain the promise of success for students that will accelerate student learning through the progression of grade level standards.  The Common Core provides the “what” for students across the U.S.(for students in those states who have adopted the Core) and leaves the “how” totally up to teachers, principals, school districts and state departments of education.

If you believe the instructional design of the Core ELA Anchor Standards is “half empty,” you may think that nonfiction is now more important than literature.  Or you may think that there is a specific list of books for students to read. It is also possible that you believe the Common Core is equally as bad or even worse than No Child Left Behind.

Your beliefs shape your actions and your attitude towards the ELA Common Core. A deep understanding and knowledge of the Common Core can lead to decisions that will benefit the students in your sphere of influence.

Where does your information about the Common Core come from?  Do you choose to consult those teachers and researchers who have deeply studied the Common Core and who have actually dug into the work of implementation?  Or because the Common Core will involve change, do you choose to find only those “naysayers” who list all the “blemishes and imperfections” of the Core? Or have you taken a third stance as you sit on the fence contemplating both sides of the Common Core coin? (Or have you made a different choice?)

What you believe will shape your attitude and affect your students if you live in a state that has adopted the Common Core.

If we continue to maintain the status quo, without change, here is the impact based on historical trends shared by Lucy Calkins:

  • “From a group of 100 ninth graders, only 19 will graduate from college. More students will go to prison than those who will graduate from college.
  •  Information growth from 1997 to 2002 was as great as the rest of all the previous years of civilization.
  •  In the U.S. 85% of the jobs used to require basic literacy skills so the 15% of high school students who had debate club and AP classes were often only those college bound students. Employers are currently asking for employees with high levels of literacy – up to  85% of the jobs will require higher literacy skills. That is what the Common Core is calling for – up to 85% of all the students to have the opportunity for debate club and AP classes.
  • Students need a good school that has a cohesive approach to quality literacy. It is no longer “okay” to have an isolated, quality teacher at one or two grade levels.”*

(*Presentation titled Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Student Achievement, Lucy Calkins, 01/25/2013. Chicago, IL: New York Teachers College: TRWP.)

The choice is yours.  Do you choose to believe that the instructional design of the ELA Common Core is a “promise for accelerating achievement?”  Or do you choose to believe it is a failure?  What does your decision say about you and your outlook on life?  What are the implications for your students?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

NEED More Information?

For more information about Lucy Calkin’s work at New York Teachers College click here.

For a link to the book, Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement click here(Scroll down on the Heinemann link and you can read the Introduction, and Chapters 1 and 2 for free!)


Getting Started with the Common Core

Where should we start with the Common Core? It depends on your current status!  But if you are looking for a place to start, consider these ideas.  The resources that I can gather from my Twitter PLN amaze me.  Here’s an excerpted list from  a post that is my favorite thus far this week.   Jan Miller Burkins and Kim Yaris have the details at Engage (A Reading Today blog).

“Stretching into a New Year 

  • Stretch 1: Plan lessons that address more than one standard.
  • Stretch 2: Select texts that give students a lot to think about.
  • Stretch 3: Make your modeling messier.
  • Stretch 4: Watch and listen more. Talk less.
  • Stretch 5: Foster problem-solving rather than dependence.”

Burkins and Yaris have many resources on their blog that will give you “food for thought” about all things Common Core. I wrote about something similar to Stretch 4 in a previous post, “Silence is golden.” Stretch 5 is the  one that I wonder about a lot.  In the interest of “helping,” are we inadvertently creating dependent students?

Intrigued?  Check out this International Reading Association Blog at Reading Today Online for the details straight from Burkins and Yaris!

Which stretch will increase the learning for your students? Where will you begin stretching?

Common Core Must Reads

When you consider CCR.RI.1 how do you decide what evidence is most relevant, accurate, and informative?  Does it need to parallel or mirror your own existing thoughts so you can cheer, “Good job!” when you get to the end?

Or does the evidence get you to stop and think?  Perhaps reread?  Talk to a friend?  Write a blog? Does it ever make you wonder what you really “know?”

There are many wonderful blogs on a variety of topics.  The two blogs that have increased my level of understanding of the Common Core English Language Arts Anchor Standards with files of evidence of learning are:

(drum roll, please . . .)

1. Burkins and Yaris Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy

or in Twitterdom @burkinsandyaris

Go to the second button “Our Favorites” and pull down the menu to see such choices as:

  • Article Archive
  • Assessments
  • Close Reading
  • Common Core Resources
  • Common Core Work in the States


Climbing the Staircase of Complexity (Parts 1 and 2) might be a blog post of special interest to you!  Wander around a bit to see what’s available!

2. Teaching the Core

or in Twitterdom @davestuartjr

Dave Stuart Jr. will help your brain cells grow when you read his blogs about all 32 English Language Arts CCR Anchor Standards.  The header for his blog is posted below.  Time spent with all of the CCSS posts will be an incredibly good use of your time.  As you read them, please do think about your own applications of the CCR Standards ESPECIALLY if you are a high school ELA teacher.  If you work in an elementary or middle school, think about how you truly do help create that staircase of learning so students can meet the end goal – College and / or Career Ready!


What did you learn from reading these blogs?  Please “Leave a Reply” below!

What is your plan for the New Year – 2013?

My plan is “learning.”

For the Wednesday Twitter chat for #educoach, I was thinking about my learning goals for 2013.  I began with a variety of words including some that had been included in previous posts. I stopped with “patience, listen carefully, and use questions to help others and myself reflect.”

After reading Arizona MS principal Jeff Delp’s December 31st blog about “today”  ( ), I decided to change my goal to “learning” – one word. I believe that I will be able to have “evidence” of my learning if I use patience and wait to hear what others are saying.  Then when I listen carefully as I listen with my mouth closed, I will also be able to “learn.”  And finally, as I use thoughtful questions to help others and myself reflect, I will have additional evidence of my own learning.  (In order to help improve student learning, I am a firm believer that I must also be a learner.  That means I will be modeling learning behavior as well!)

Last night, on the #educoach chat, participants were sharing their “Edu-lutions” for 2013.  The archived chat is available at if you would like to see what some very talented individuals are planning for 2013.

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Still thinking about one word  to describe 2013 or your goal for 2013?  Here are two more ideas.

1)      Check out Principal Mindy Higgin’s blog from August about promoting reading at

2)      Check out @principalj  (Jessica Johnson’s) December 31st blog with her own reading resolutions available at

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Are you interested in making a “one-word poster?”  Here’s a link that will assist you in that endeavor.

What is your plan, resolution, or edu-lution for 2013?


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