Beginning to reflect on CCS.

In my current work, I’m drawing from a wide variety of goals, ideas, and influences.  A few of these are professional extra-curriculars: planning a presentation for the EL National Conference in March, finishing a project for a Mathematics and Fairness class I’ve been enjoying since August, working with teachers from around the city on an Algebra 2 and Trigonometry learning team, and looking forward to PCMI in July.  I outline these because I’d like to make the most of this opportunity to reflect on each over the course of this spring – and in so doing, to learn as much as I can.

Beyond these are the some structural changes in my planning: my school’s move toward performance-based assessments, our year-and-a-half-and-growing experience with mastery-based grading, and connecting those, our attention to the national Common Core Standards, which New York State plans to fully adopt by 2014.

Reading the Common Core Standards can at first feel like reading older lists of New York State standards, but so far, I’ve been impressed by the direction the standards take and hopeful that they’ll actually last for more than five years.

For starters, I’d like to highlight some of the “Key Points” published in the introduction to the math standards:

  • “The high school standards call on students to practice applying mathematical ways of thinking to real world issues and challenges.” (All italics are part of the original document.)
  • Students should gain the “ability to apply mathematics to novel situations, as college students and employees regularly do.”
  • “The high school standards emphasize mathematical modeling, the use of mathematics and statistics to analyze empirical situations…to understand them better, and to improve decisions…Relationships in physical, economic, public policy, social and everyday situations can be modeled using mathematical and statistical methods.”
  • “Technology is valuable for varying assumptions, exploring consequences, and comparing predictions with data.”

In other words, it seems like WCYDWT is being (or, is ready to be) embraced on a national level.  And that the we will be encouraged to draw on both real situations and the mountain of data that’s out there, ready to be plundered by enterprising groups of students and teachers.

Of course, these key points are followed by a long list of specific content that a high school curriculum should hit, but it’s shorter than the sum of all the New York standards in Integrated Algebra, Geometry, and A2&Trig.  The standards that specifically connect to modeling are marked with stars, and the non-modeling standards begin with words like “Understand” and “Explain.”  It’s not brand new, but it seems to be a good place to start.  And since they’re national, bloggers can begin to unite and share a bit more effectively.

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