As you know from my last blog post on the Common Core, I quite like the common core standards. The interdisciplinary approach gives teachers multiple opportunities to address content in a variety of ways, deepening critical thinking skills. For example, one of the sessions I attended, “Reading Social Studies: The Character Connection” (Louisa Kramer-Vida, Ed.D, C.W. Post University) focused on teaching social studies like we would teach ELA, with “characters.” By teaching social studies with a “story,” students can make the connections to their studies as they would with a novel in ELA. To me, this is what the Common Core seeks. As I reflected on what I am writing for my own school’s unified curriculum, the goal is to connect our students to the people and places around them. Instead of creating characters, we want to connect our students to their own community, developing their sense of space from the small to the very large. For older students, connecting them in the same way is equally important.
The Common Core standards could not be more explicit that reading in social studies is not supposed to be like reading in ELA. That's why there is an entire, separate set of reading standards for social studies. Nor could the standards and their author's commentary be more emphatic about their goal not being "making connections." The Common Core ELA standards are about close reading and analysis of texts (and not in the literary theory sense).
Dawn presented a unit to the staff that she had developed when we were teaching together at Merrick. The lesson was on cells; she had her students compare the cell and its contents to a community. As I sat there and watched the faculty react to that unit, it dawned on me (no pun intended): “Wow. This is exactly the kind of thing we want to see to connect all disciplines to the mission of our school.” During the reflection time period, one teacher asked about the possibility of tying math lessons to this theme.
Common Core is all about this type of higher level thinking. Going even deeper, as an environmental science school, making this kind of comparison tied our mission to other disciplines in a meaningful manner.
No, it really isn't about that kind of thinking at all! There are no standards anything like that!
I guess the charitable interpretation of this kind of thing is that the existing standards and tests in New York must be more limiting than I can appreciate, so maybe in comparison Common Core is a breath of fresh air.