Common Core for Sale…Buyer Beware!

“A million dollars for lesson plans?”

That was my response on Friday as a friend shared a story about a woman in New York City who earned $1,000,000.00 selling lesson plans online. After my outburst she added, “and they weren’t even aligned with the Common Core!”

My friend’s comment caused me to recall the many vendors I’ve come in contact with in the last year who made the claim “Common Core Aligned!” When I hear the statement, I tilt my head and wonder, “Ah, how’s that when it’s the same product repackaged that you said supported No Child Left Behind? Hmmm.” I would imagine that until the actual assessments are released, there’ll be quite a bit of repackaging. That’s business, right?

Well, earlier this year rubrics were released to help educators make decisions about selecting “Common Core aligned” materials. The rubrics were published by Achieve, the project manager for the PARCC consortium. The seven rubrics can help us assess online resources for the following:

  • Degree of alignment
  • Quality explanation of the subject matter
  • Utility of materials designed to support teaching
  • Quality of assessment
  • Quality of technology interactivity
  • Quality of instructional tasks and practice exercises
  • Opportunities for deeper learning

In addition to realizing the need to help educators make selection decisions by producing the rubrics, the good folks at Achieve also provided  videos to support the effective use of them. The first of nine videos shown below provides an overview of the rubrics and recommends how to use them.

I’ve already started using the rubrics to evaluate other vendors and my work because the only way we are really going to change education is if we really change. The rubrics are a good start.

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Leadership for Literacy

Improve literacy! That seems to be the annual cry, especially in middle and high schools. Recently I was talking to a central office literacy director who shared that her district was implementing its fourth intervention program in four years. Intervention programs can work, when used according the publisher’s recommendations. The challenge tends to be that well-intentioned leaders rely on them as a cure-all. The other challenge tends to be that they can become another program without a plan.

Last year my colleague Anitra Butler and I led a session for leaders: Leadership for Literacy. The session supported leaders with the following:

  1. Improve the use of Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and Decartes
  2. Integrate the Marzano vocabulary systemwide initiative
  3. Integrate close reading to support Common Core implementation
  4. Understand how to plan for student growth using standard deviation
  5. Understand disciplinary literacy – a necessity in middle and high schools
  6. Develop an approach for managing the growth of all levels of learners
  7. Create a balanced approach for monitoring growth and progress regularly

I’m sharing the session that Anitra and I led here. Feel free to use it to create your own plan.

There are many approaches to improving literacy, but if they are not embedded within a plan that is strategic and monitored closely, then you may end up with just another intervention.