Yes! But only if we Colorado educators make it so…
As we return to the classrooms this fall, we know that we have one year to familiarize ourselves with the new state standards before being required by law to implement them in December, 2011.
If you attended one of the regional meetings facilitated by the Colorado Department of Education, or visited their site about the new state standards, then you know that the state has a strong desire for districts to revolutionize instructional practice and that their worst fear is losing this opportunity to do so.
They want the new standards to be the catalyst that transforms education in Colorado.
They want our schools to focus on the dispositions, skills and knowledge students need to be successful in the 21st century.
They want our schools to shift their focus from basic skills which hang on the lowest rung of Bloom’s Taxonomy to those which rest on the highest rung of that ladder and involve analysis, application, and creation.
They want students actively engaged in relevant, authentic 21st Century tasks that support critical analysis, problem solving, creative and innovative thinking across a wide range of topics and through a global perspective.
They know that the only way we will close the global achievement gap described by Tony Wagner, is to reverse current practices that have reduced deep learning to skill and drill practice sessions designed to increase student achievement as measured by the current state assessments.
We in Thompson believe we can use this opportunity to reflect upon the new state standards, and those currently being aligned with the Common Core in reading and math, and transform the educational experience for each and every child in our community.
We will use this school year to delve into the new standards, understand the possibilities and potential for robust learning within them, work collaboratively to develop a shared vision for common student outcomes in all of our courses, share these with families and students, and leverage our resources and systems to support teachers and schools with the materials, knowledge, skills and innovative pathways to make this transformation a reality.
Using the Teaching & Learning Cycle, we will begin by focusing on the questions:
- What should all students learn and why?
- How will we know all students have learned?
- How will we teach to ensure all students learn?
- How will we respond when students don’t learn or learn prior to expectation?
This year we will focus on the first two questions. This will provide us a strong foundation to really understand what we want students to know and be able to do.
The new assessment design is still in play. The assessment committees are beginning to meet and hopefully have the opportunity and wherewithal to give themselves the chance to really do some out of the box thinking about assessments.
Few educators I know believe much will change unless the assessment system changes in a meaningful way. They know that we can incorporate all the higher level learning targets we want but if these targets are not assessed by the state, the pressure to ensure the mastery of the skills which are assessed will continue to be the main focus of school based work.
However, I believe we should put aside our skepticism for a while. Let us capture this opportunity to build a vision of new possibilities. Let us reframe our capacity to challenge our students to achieve, empower them to learn, and inspire them to succeed in the present and the future while using these new standards as a catalyst for that transformation.
I know that I am looking forward to discovering how we can use this opportunity to strengthen our vision of learning across our community, together.