As the fighting rages on among legislators, educators, researchers and the media over the benefits and detriments of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, classrooms across the country continue to implement the standards into the daily curriculum. In turn, more families are experiencing Common Core through the daily homework that students bring to their houses.
For parents and children, the rigor and formatting can be frustrating and confusing. As educators, we should strive to maintain the standards set by our districts while creating a balance so families can support education rather than be suffocated by it.
First step: Emphasize higher-order thinking
As classroom teachers, understanding the shift in assessments and demand for higher-order thinking in the classroom is a necessary first step to creating balance with Common Core. The National Research Council notes that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics emphasize deeper learning of mathematics, learning with understanding and the development of usable, applicable, transferable knowledge and skills.
This means going beyond recalling data as rote memory or just understanding the meaning of the concept. Greater focus needs to come from analyzing and synthesizing the information. However, many teachers don’t know where to begin when striving to provide a rigorous experience for students.
Melissa N. Matusevich, Katherine A. O’Connor and Mary P. Hargett, authors of “The Nonnegotiables of Academic Rigor,” would suggest focusing on curriculum, instruction or assessment through a self-analysis of teacher practices in just one area. Once teachers understand the students’ level, they can strive to increase rigor one step at a time.
How does this affect the area of homework?
Teachers may find that increased rigor may result in increased classroom time to cover a learning objective. As a result, there may be a greater need to rely on homework to make up the time difference. Before this approach should be taken, the role of homework should be defined in each classroom.
The idea behind homework is not to develop the learning of new skills, but to reinforce skills that have already been taught, according to Rick Wormeli, author of “Fair Isn’t Always Equal.” This thought process is further supported by Janet Alleman and her associates, who noted in “Homework Done Right” that a key principle for effective homework practices is to assign meaningful homework that students can do with the assistance of adults. That exercise will promote cooperation between the school and the parents.
Activities completed at home should focus on comprehension and knowledge rather than the higher cognitive domains that can lead to further difficulties at home, which will only follow the students to school the next day.
Common Core rigor isn’t bad
The rigor attached to Common Core does not have to be seen as a negative. Teachers and students alike can meet the challenge of progressing beyond rote memorization and minimalized learning objectives.
For this to happen, a shift in thinking and teaching is necessary to create a balance for everyone. Self-reflection, curriculum literacy and a strong definition of the roles class instruction and homework play can accelerate the implementation process.
Utilize the classroom experience to master high levels of cognitive learning and promote homework as a way to reinforce what has been taught. Strive for quality over quantity in both settings.
Dr. Jason Perez is the head principal at Heritage Trails Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma, as well as a faculty member at Concordia University – Portland, where he teaches Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction courses, and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he teacher Master of Education Administration courses.Learn More: Click to view related resources.
- Janet Alleman, Jere Brophy, Barbara Knighton, Robert Ley, Benjamin Botwinski, Sarah C. Middlestead, "Homework Done Right: Powerful Learning in Real-Life Situations," Corwin Press
- Melissa N. Matusevich, Katherine A. O’Connor, Mary P. Hargett, "The Nonnegotiables of Academic Rigor," Gifted Child Today, Volume 32, Number 4
- National Research Council, "Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century," The National Academies Press
- Rick Wormeli, "Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing and Grading in the Differentiated Classroom," Stenhouse Publishers