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KNOW Summer 2014 | 19 of equity for all — don’t exist in a vacuum. Misinformation and just pure confusion has threatened to set back what could be a giant leap forward to improve teaching and learning in Georgia’s schools. What needs to be made clear is that the new standards of teaching must go hand in hand with appropriate student assessment and a carefully aligned curriculum. It should be shaped and engaged by the educators who, every day, interact and connect with Georgia’s students and help make their dreams possible. Common Core is not strictly more standardized testing; however, we must institute some kind of assessment to measure the performance and progress of both Georgia’s teachers and students. The Promise of Common Core State Standards is to implement fewer, better, and fairer tests to appropriately analyze the performance of Georgia’s children based on the effectiveness of our public school system. Common Core Standards describe what students need to know and have the ability to do in order to strive in today’s increasingly competitive global economy. A Common Core curriculum provides ideas about how to teach and achieve those specific standards. And Common Core assessments are the tests used to determine gaps in specific students’ performance. They also help our school systems to know where more emphasis is needed to close these gaps and master the standards necessary for our children to succeed. To successfully implement any set of standards, we must prioritize these components in the right order and we must do it in a way that is fully supportive and effective for Georgia’s students and educators alike. This process is necessary and crucial to strengthen our children so that they can thrive. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards is just the start of this process and it is up to us to ensure that we get it right. Current state standardized tests do not adequately measure student success. This is why Common Core assessments move beyond traditional multiple choice exams where students are identified with a number based on how many correct bubbles they filled in. They now will engage in critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills. Teachers support Common Core because they have faith in the abilities of their students, their capacity to learn at a higher level and to meet the vital challenges that are set by the standards. Instead of a simple number stating whether a student is right or wrong, the new assessments will present a more genuine understanding of what students do and do not know so any gaps in particular skills and knowledge can be addressed, and their strengths can be identified and exercised. The bottom line is that we must hold the state responsible for providing equitable resources to school systems of all counties. Teachers in Seattle made this point loud and clear this past year when they mounted an energetic (and successful!) community boycott of a district’s MAP test, an assessment tool that didn’t appropriately measure what teachers were required to teach in the classroom. “It wasn’t about denying accountability,” said Seattle teacher and union leader Jesse Hagopian at NEA’s Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women. “It was about doing what parents and teachers knew was best for our students.” It is in that same spirit and consideration of what’s best for students, that NEA and GAE educators will gather in Denver for the annual NEA Representative Assembly (RA) to implement two measures for our public schools. The first is aptly named “Commonsense Common Core Implementation,” and it calls on all Georgia school districts to do this effectively -- with the support of NEA and GAE. The second calls for a moratorium on the consequences of frequent high-stakes, multiple choice testing that is often associated with Common Core until all school districts have worked with educators to create authentic, locally developed curriculum and assessments that accurately measure the performance of Georgia’s students. “We know that not every teacher will be working in buildings or districts where it’s done well,” said NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel. With that in mind, the RA’s anticipated action will ensure that teachers, parents, and community members will be supported with the resources necessary to implement these standards and the development of assessments that match those standards. GAE understands that educators will need time to develop a new and creative curriculum in order to effectively teach the standards. They also will need time to learn and practice new instructional tools that may be necessary or useful as well as to properly design assessments to adequately measure the concepts that our students must master. GAE’s public school network and the ‘Raise Your Hand’ campaign, promise to provide an avenue for Georgia’s educators to access vital resources as they make that transition for the growth and success of Georgia’s students. Consider NEA’s new partnership with BetterLesson, a Cambridge-based organization dedicated to working with NEA and GAE to distribute educators’ teaching expertise across the state, aiding in the effective implementation of the Common Core Standards. In the meantime, critics of Common Core should re-analyze exactly what it is that they are criticizing, suggested Van Roekel. We truly must ask ourselves, “Why would we not want to challenge our children to be held to the highest standards of their intelligence? Why wouldn’t we want to see them thrive to the best of their abilities?” With the proper classroom implementation of Common Core State Standards, Georgia’s children all have the capacity to perform at a higher academic level, enabling them to be empowered and successful in their futures. “Which standard shouldn’t be there? Is there something missing? What isn’t important for the students of this country to know?” Van Roekel asked. “And what would you replace them with? If you say ‘the current system,’ then I say no. We need to do better for our students.” Critics of Common Core should re-analyze exactly what it is that they are criticizing. We truly must ask ourselves, “Why would we not want to challenge our children to be held to the highest standards of their intelligence?

KNOW Summer 2014
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