January 30, 2013
It used to be that only language arts teachers were expected to help students learn to read and write, as well as critically listen and persuasively speak. But Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have thankfully put that antiquated perception on final notice. Of course, all teachers should build their students’ literacy skills, including argumentation – defending a claim about any idea, process, or outcome – which is exactly what CCSS support.
CCSS also require a different approach to developing students’ ability to master math concepts and problem-solving processes that serve them beyond the classroom. Instead of giving answers when a student is struggling, teachers will need to help students persevere – to develop critical thinking skills while getting to a solution. Likewise, teachers will need to help students construct viable arguments about their answers and critique the reasoning of others. It will be about the journey as much as the destination.
New Teacher Center (NTC) is fortunate to be at the forefront of a pilot that helps teachers apply rigorous instruction aligned with CCSS. Through NTC’s e-Mentoring for Student Success (eMSS) new Explorations programs in science and math, teachers are building their capacity to understand and implement CCSS based on tasks built by the Literacy and Math Design Collaboratives (LDC, MDC). In addition to eMSS Explorations, which will eventually support all subject area teachers, NTC also helps elementary teachers build CCSS-informed language development practices via an Oral Language Development website.
Of course, as the Council of Chief State Schools Officers has noted, “Participation in trainings or watching webinars or videos on the Common Core is not alone sufficient professional development; this must be coupled with teachers having regular and frequent meaningful, data-informed discussions with their peers and a coach or mentor to support them in transferring new knowledge and skills to the classroom.” NTC’s organizational reach complements online professional development efforts with face-to-face mentoring and induction program consultation and policy-making support in more than 430 districts and 24 states throughout the country.
Along with our NTC colleagues, and the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are committed to helping new teachers get the mentoring support they need to design and teach CCSS-specific lessons. Our eMSS initiatives are an essential piece of a comprehensive strategy to improve student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and school leaders. We look forward to learning from our eMSS Explorations pilot so that we can further disseminate the content-rich, rigorous and engaging learning tasks that are being developed by the LDC and MDC.
Lisa Mount is a literacy coordinator, Kevin Drinkard is a teacher induction program consultant, and Alyson Mike is the Senior Director for Online Professional Development with New Teacher Center, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and school leaders.