Making the CORE Visible

One of problems I face when I teach curriculum and the CCSS to the leadership candidates in our Master’s program is how to make high quality, cognitively demanding instruction visible and help candidates understand what kinds teaching best supports college readiness.  As City, Elmore, Fiarman and Teitel (2009) emphasize, one of the critical tasks of professional development for school leaders is to help leaders imagine what high quality instruction looks like in order to help them lead instruction and guide improvement in their school.  If one does not understand the goals one works towards, it is hard to achieve them.

I have found that the CCSS support my efforts to teach the leadership candidates this knowledge.  When my classes first start going through the standards, many of the candidates tend to downplay the changes demanded by the CCSS.  They might tell me “We’re doing most of that,” when we go through the standards at their grade level.

Yesterday, in class, I was able to create a real AHA moment and help the leadership candidates I teach see the type of instruction students would need to master the CORE.   We were working together discussing the formative assessments schools might use to support student learning for the Anchor Writing Standards, particularly Standards 7-9.  These standards are:

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

After a good discussion, I had the leadership candidates in my class take one of the ELA tables from the exercises I published in a previous post and discuss student work and school professionals might collect to assess these standards.

This is the table we discussed.  The leadership candidates in my classes had filled it out for homework and were adding to it during our discussion.

Table 3: How is the Standard Measured and How Might it be at Your School. 

CCSS Anchor Standard How is the Standard Measured? How Might it be?
Speaking and Listening    


The AHA moment began when I asked the candidates to look up their grade level on the PARCC model content frameworks.

Suddenly,  abstract talk about the standards became concrete when candidates were confronted with a set of testable expectations for their grade levels.  The difference between the current, everyday curricula of my leadership candidate’s schools and the expectations of the CCSS  was great,  and the PARCC frameworks made this gap visible.  Many of my students had not seen the PARCC  model content chart for their grade level, and when we looked at these charts in the context of our discussion, they were able to see clear differences between CCSS and current practice.

We found the PARCC Writing Standards Progressions to be particularly powerful tools for visualizing the CORE and had an insightful discussion comparing and contrasting 3rd grade with 10th and 11th grade.

The PARCC writing progression from Grade 2 to Grade 3 is on page 5 of this document.

The PARCC writing progression from Grade 8 to Grades 9 & 10 is on page 5 of this document

As a teacher of school leaders, one of the challenges of my practice is to use the diversity in my classes as an asset.  This diversity is not just my students’ race and gender, although both are, of course, important, but the populations and grade levels they teach.  When I first started teaching curriculum I had difficulty creating lessons that benefited both primary teachers and high school teachers.  Digging into the standards in the way that we did in class yesterday,  and discussing the 3rd grade learning progression and then moving to high school, made the CORE visible and deepened my students understanding of what college readiness looks like.   Everyone had something to contribute.   Everyone could learn from each other.

I have found that one of the benefits of the CCSS is how the different components of the standards support these conversations.

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