FEA Holds First Round of Common Core State Standards Trainings

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by Pam Burtnett, FEA Public Policy and Advocacy

What are these new, “rigorous” standards that Florida is requiring? Why should Florida’s students and teachers change again? How and when will these new standards be tested? What does all of this mean for my teaching? What kinds of things will the kids have to know and be able to do?

All these questions and more were addressed in FEA’s one day drive-in Common Core State Standards (CCSS) 1.0 training held in four Florida regions.

Okaloosa County Education Association and Broward Teachers United hosted 20 and 19 teachers respectively in December 2012. Duval Teachers United made 36 participants very comfortable in the Schultz Leadership Center on January 5 and 23 teachers attended the February 9 training at the Lake County Education Association.

The trainings included:
»» An overview on the origin of the standards and the involvement of AFT, NEA and several FEA members in the development of the CCSS.
»» A recognition of the need for standards that lead to students’ mastery 1of core knowledge and skills, and a realization that the CCSS are not a curriculum nor a checklist.
»» An understanding that these new standards are cleaner, clearer, fewer, and deeper.
»» A look at the organization of the standards for both English Language Arts and Mathematics.
»» An acknowledgement that the ELA standards include standards related to literacy in Science, Social Studies, Technology, and other content areas.
»» An overview of the two consortia, Smarter Balance and PARCC, developing a series of assessments to test students understanding and skill in meeting the standards.
»» A look at sample assessment questions for both ELA and Math at primary, intermediate, middle grades and high school levels.
»» Time for ELA teachers and Math teachers to meet in smaller groups to discuss the essential shifts in their teaching practice needed to prepare students for deeper knowledge work; the content area groups also worked together on activities to familiarize themselves with the CCSS.

Participants introduced themselves at the beginning of the day and rated their level of knowledge about the CCSS from 1-5. The majority of attending FEA members gave themselves a 2. By the end of the day, training participants moved themselves up to a 3 or 4. They felt much better about the CCSS and their capacity to navigate through them. Teacher members were concerned about the upcoming assessments and the technology infrastructure and student’s technological skill demanded by these rigorous assessments.

Those teachers weren’t alone in their concerns. In fact, on April 30 AFT president Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on test-driven sanctions tied to Common Core standards. She pressed for policymakers to be held accountable for their duty to prepare schools and communities for the launch of the Common Core standards—responsibilities that must be met before school systems are plunged into turmoil with high-stakes assessments tied to standards that schools have not been positioned to use effectively.

The members who attended CCSS 1.0 expressed positive feelings about FEA’s commitment to support their professional teaching practice and requested additional FEA CCSS training. As the CCSS implementation progresses, FEA will continue to develop trainings and materials to keep members informed.

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