Jay McTighe and I have written a white paper on implementation of the Common Core Standards entitled From Common Core Standards to Curriculum: Five Big Ideas. In it we propose a strategy for ensuring that the Common Core Standards are appropriately addressed in curriculum and assessment design locally. We also highlight common misconceptions about what the Standards do and do not demand of educators locally.

We are making this paper available to all interested educators. You can download it by clicking here, then doing a save as… to your desktop: Common Core White Paper – Wiggins & McTighe.

Here are the 5 big ideas and an excerpt:

    • Big Idea # 1 – The Common Core Standards have new emphases and require a careful reading.
    • Big Idea # 2 – Standards are not curriculum.
    • Big Idea # 3 – Standards need to be “unpacked.”
    • Big Idea # 4 – A coherent curriculum is mapped backwards from desired performances.
    • Big Idea #5 – The Standards come to life through the assessments.

“A prevalent misconception about standards in general is that they simply specify learning goals to be achieved. A more complete and accurate conception, in line with the colloquial meaning of the term, recognizes that standards also refer to the desired qualities of student work and the degree of rigor that must be assessed and achieved. Think about what we mean when we talk about “high standards” in athletics, music or business: we refer to the quality of outcomes, not the inputs. We ask if work is up to standard, not whether we “covered” such standards as teachers. In this sense, the standards are at their core a set of criteria for building and testing local assessment. They tell where we must look and what we must look for to determine if student work is up to standard. Such information is crucial to guide local assessments and insure that these are validly anchored against national standards.

Ironically (and unfortunately), this important point is not made in the main body of the ELA Common Core Standards but in Appendices B and C. These Appendices are arguably the most important sections of the ELA Standards because there the authors describe the degree of text difficulty that students must be able to handle, the features that need to be evident in student writing, and the kinds of performance tasks that will provide the needed evidence. Accompanying samples of scored work illustrate the qualities of performance that must be attained to meet the Standards.

This performance-based conception of Standards lies at the heart of what is needed to translate the Common Core into a robust curriculum and assessment system. The curriculum and related instruction must be designed backward from an analysis of standards-based assessments; i.e., worthy performance tasks anchored by rigorous rubrics and annotated work samples. We predict that the alternative – a curriculum mapped in a typical scope and sequence based on grade-level content specifications – will encourage a curriculum of disconnected “coverage” and make it more likely that people will simply retrofit the new language to the old way of doing business.”

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