By Kevin Myers, Director of Academic Achievement, Youth Policy Institute Charter Schools
At the Youth Policy Institute Charter Schools (YPICS), we have been focusing on the big picture. A huge portion of our summer professional development series was spent refocusing on our school hallmarks, mission, vision, and outcomes. A clear understanding of why we are doing what we are doing is imperative to the success of an organization. Many people jump into a job, a frame of mind, or a pedagogy without fully understanding the big picture or the “why” behind it. This is certainly true for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and many people who do not understand the purpose behind these standards are raising huge concerns about them.
When I was a student trudging my way through the college track for math at my high school, I struggled on homework and tests if the assigned problems differed in any way from the examples given in class. Anything short of substituting new numbers into the algorithm demonstrated in class would send me on a downward spiral of confusion and frustration, leading me to come in early the next day to work with my teacher on my homework. At the time, I did not have any concept of instructional pedagogy. I didn’t know that my teacher was teaching to a very low depth of understanding. It was similar in my other classes. I had always enjoyed reading, but mainly I enjoyed stories for their plot and not necessarily for the deeper meanings and lessons intended to be learned by the reader. I needed support and instruction that would scaffold my learning and thinking; I needed guidance in order to think more analytically.
The instruction required by the CCSS is different than the state standards we have all grown to know and understand, and this is scary for some people. Parents who learned reading, writing, and arithmetic another way are fearful about how they will support their kids as the current generation of students learns concepts in a totally new instructional paradigm. Teachers who have been using a certain set of strategies for their entire career are worried about how to instruct their classes with this new set of standards.
But a lot of this discomfort is fear of the unknown. Many people are attacking the CCSS without reading them or fully understanding that the underlying purpose of these standards is better comprehension. We don’t just want our kids to be able to “do problems” or to simply read a text; we want our kids to push to deeper levels of analysis and understanding that will help them succeed in college and in their careers. And that is what is at the heart of Common Core State Standards.
At Youth Policy Institute Charter Schools in Los Angeles, we have fully embraced the Common Core standards. We see them as a set of requirements that will guide our teachers to do what they do best: teach! We feel that teaching the Common Core is not new and different—it’s just quality instruction. Our goal has always been college readiness for all of our students. At YPICS, we ask our kids to CRACLL: to be College Ready, Active Citizens, and Lifelong Learners. The depth of understanding required by the Common Core allows our teachers to continue to develop lessons that will help our kids to not only CRACLL, but to also be ready for college and for their careers.
As a nation of students returns to school, teachers need to be ready to implement the Common Core State Standards. Instead of facing this new endeavor with fear and apprehension, I would encourage our country’s teachers to dive in and give the CCSS their all. Teachers want success for their kids, and quality implementation of the Common Core State Standards will help our kids to get there.