Rigor in Reading: Follow Up

Following up on my thoughts on Lisa Hansel’s post from Core Knowledge–from the Marshall Memo, quoting Michael Petrilli, on whether the Common Core is pressuring schools to change their instructional practices:

“But guess what? If schools continue to assign kids ‘just right’ texts at their current reading levels and those kids still pass the Common Core assessments – great! From the perspective of the public, that’s what counts. But if we see a lot of failure on the Common Core assessments in 2015 and 2016 and little movement on NAEP, we’ll now have a reasonable hypothesis to explain it: Schools didn’t change their instructional practices, at least as they relate to assigning students more-challenging texts.”

How do we get local school districts to make smart curriculum decisions? asks Petrilli.  “Set clear standards, align assessments to those standards, hold educators accountable, and help them find solid curricular materials that synch with the standards.”

Really interesting. Again makes me wonder about the parallels in math. There is a big push in the Common Core for more rigorous text in literacy–against the idea of the “just right” book. Obviously not the only shift in literacy, but a very concrete one.

The analogous shift in math seems to be, in general, a move toward more conceptual mathematical thinking–explaining and justifying answers, answering abstract questions, applying and synthesizing knowledge in new ways. All great stuff. But what are some small, concrete instructional shifts that we, as teachers in the classroom, can make to align our instruction to these higher standards? If the push is just to teach better than before, that doesn’t sound much like reform to me. I think the Standards for Mathematical Practice are a great place to start, and there are more resources coming out around those. But I’m investigating triangles in class tomorrow, and I don’t know how I can push these new standards differently than I would teach my curriculum without them.

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