July 22, 2014 - 11:25
Standards mean accountability
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As part of our continuing series on Common Core and its implementation in our schools, we recently spoke with Polk County High School teacher Julie Faulkner about the changes and her experiences as a Common Core Coach.

As part of our continuing series on Common Core and its implementation in our schools, we recently spoke with Polk County High School teacher Julie Faulkner about the changes and her experiences as a Common Core Coach.

“Common Core standards at the high school level in English are still very similar to our previous Tennessee standards in content,” Faulkner said. “Sure some items are gone, such as the 41 foreign phrases we had to memorize, but the basic ELA skills are still there.”

 With Common Core, Faulker said the shift comes more from how teachers teach the skills and how students are assessed on these skills. She said Common Core teaching strategies and assessments stress higher order thinking in the way of discovery and application.

“I think that aspect is a positive change. Does that mean teachers and students are going to have to risk productive struggle? Yes, and I think the outcome will be more rigorous lessons and more diligent students, Faulkner said, adding, “Will we be 100% successful straight out of the gate? I don’t believe so, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either.”

Faulkner said the training to become a Common Core Coach were rigorous. She said weeks of analyzing text and information, followed by writing assignments goes into the training of all the coaches. Faulkner said the idea was that as trainers, they would experience everything in every module that training attendees would, and would do so multiple times.

According to Faulkner, it’s difficult to see any results of the changes so far. “We have limited data because we are still being tested on the old multiple-choice format. Those questions are much different than Common Core questions,” Faulkner said, adding that she is always testing and experimenting in her classroom.

Faulkner said there were two major changes she has implemented this year to adjust to Common Core. She said she is able to bring in nonfiction in a purposeful way and requires students to justify their responses and answers for everything.

“One-word answers or one-sentence responses are no longer acceptable,” Faulkner said. “Implementing that procedure wasn’t easy. In fact it was like pulling teeth. I had to back up and start over many times to hold students accountable. They had to know that I wasn’t going to change my mind. Eventually, they began answering questions more thoughtfully and more thoroughly on their own,” she said.

“Teachers are probably the most resilient people on Earth,” Faulkner said. “We are constantly required to be flexible and adaptive. With the right tools, support, encouragement, feedback, and data, most teachers will not only survive, but will succeed. For most teachers, the main goal is help students achieve. So we do what it takes to make that happen.”

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