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News Article

Department of Teacher Education Conference: Beyond the Common Core,' Friday, Oct. 26

10/12/2012

JONESBORO – When it comes to teaching up to professional standards, teachers and administrators from the Northeast Arkansas region will be getting to the “core” of the issue later this month at Arkansas State University.

At a conference for teachers and administrators in kindergarten through 12th grade, faculty from the ASU Department of Teacher Education and other professionals will focus on the importance of the “common core” educational standards and examples for effective practice in the classroom.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), as outlined in 2010 by the National Governors Association (NGA), is a set of learning expectations used to prepare students for college and career readiness.  According to Dr. Natalie Johnson-Leslie, associate professor of secondary education in the Department of Teacher Education, “We, as a department, prepare our teachers to utilize student learning expectations to get students ready for college or the workforce with minimal to no remediation necessary.”

Dr. Johnson-Leslie is serving as chair of the “Beyond the Common Core” conference, which is Friday, Oct. 26, in the Dean B. Ellis Library, at Arkansas State University.

The CCSS provide a focus on specific skills and concepts in English language arts and mathematics for each grade level.  This, she continued, “allows teachers, parents and students to work toward the same clear, consistent, measurable and understandable goals.”  Teachers in turn use these goals to “create a learning environment that will prepare students for current and future success.”

In keeping with ASU’s mission, the Common Core Conference is aimed at educating K-12 teachers and administrators who are leaders in the school; enhancing the curriculum and the lives of the students with the best teaching and learning strategies supported by relevant assessments; and, by extension, enriching the lives of teachers, students, parents and administrators regarding common core design to help students become college and career ready.

The steering committee that is organizing the conference has set up a well-organized web site, www.commoncoreportal.com, where visitors may review information about the speakers and their backgrounds, consult the schedule of presentations and register to attend.

Conference sponsors include the College of Education; Department of Teacher Education; Education Renewal Zone; Interactive Teaching and Technology Center; the Excellence in Literacy Program; Crowley’s Ridge Education Cooperative; and Northeast Arkansas Education Cooperative.

Dr. Johnson-Leslie explained more detail about the common core standards for various academic areas:

  • Common Core standards for English language arts are comprised of features that will: strengthen a student’s reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language skills.
    • Reading standards focus on enhancing the student’s reading comprehension and text complexity.
    • Writing standards aim at providing skills for planning, revising, and editing written expression for informative, narrative, and argumentative writing.
    • Speaking and listening standards hones on developing student’s oral communication and interpersonal skills.
    • Language standards incorporate the rules of standard written and spoken English. 
  • Common Core standards for Mathematics facilitate mathematical practice and mathematical content that will:
    • Focus on student’s ability to apply and extend math principles and mathematical content focused on student’s ability to learn fewer concepts at each grade level in greater depth
    • Engage students to problem-solve, reason abstractly and quantitatively, and to use appropriate tools strategically.
    • Teach them to focus on big ideas in grade bands and to model mathematics principles in practical ways with mathematical precision
    • Develop core conceptual understandings of mathematical processes and procedures versus just arriving at the answer.  This starts in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach content mastery (not testing).

“The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) guide teachers in providing appropriate content for student’s educational success,” she continued.  The National Governors Association (NGA) clearly outlines that “the purpose of the standards is not to tell teachers how to teach, but to give them guidelines from which they can build appropriate lesson plans.”  This is the primary focus of the conference—to help teachers plan relevant lessons that are “implementable with valid and reliable formative and summative assessments.”

Effectively implementing the CCSS in schools and K-12 classrooms has the potential to transform U.S. education by narrowing achievement gaps and ensuring that every student graduates from high school ready for college and work.

Accompanying all large scale educational reforms are concerns.  Thus, “implementing the CCSS will be challenging because it requires significant changes in delivering instruction, designing assessments, preparing teacher candidates, developing curriculum materials, and implementing accountability measures,” she also said.  The crucial work of implementation CCSS will be done in schools and classrooms by teachers and principals and their districts.  “The model curricula include both vertical and horizontal alignment to facilitate grade-level breakdowns of standards, expectations for learning, instructional strategies and resources, and connections to related standards in other grades,” asserts Johnson-Leslie.

Preparing and supporting teachers and leaders implementing the CCSS will be a significant change for teachers, principals, and administrators in most states.

“Teachers will be required not only to teach students new, more rigorous content aligned to the standards, but also to engage students in more challenging work in the classroom,” Dr. Johnson-Leslie stated.

To help students acquire higher-level knowledge and skills, teachers may need to improve their own pedagogical skills as well as their content knowledge.  Ultimately, K-12 and postsecondary education leaders will have to work cooperatively to find strategies for improving preparation and professional development of educators in order that students can be successfully prepared to be college and/or career ready.

For more information about the conference, contact Dr. Natalie Johnson-Leslie in the Department of Teacher Education, College of Education, at 972-3059, or njohnson@astate.edu, or ittclab@astate.edu or consult the conference web site, http://www.commoncoreportal.com/.

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Reference

To appropriately cite the Common Core State Standards, use the following:

Authors: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers
Title: Common Core State Standards (insert specific content area if you are using only one)
Publisher: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C.
Copyright Date: 2010