The Common Core standards were introduced in 2010. While there are varying views on the quality and expectations of the standards, this new framework offered a much needed benefit. It provided a common language across our country that answered the question: What do we want our kids to learn? This common framework gave a point of reference for all teachers and was a significant shift from the isolation of individual state standards.
My experience at the secondary level of education consistently identifies areas of isolation among teachers. The common standards have provided a uniform curriculum and a set of standardized assessments to measure student mastery of these standards. However, the instructional strategies, assessments and grading formula's utilized by teachers in many cases remain autonomous. Autonomy, flexibility and creativity are important attributes for educators. It is what enables an intrinsic motivation to thrive in the classroom. The ability to innovate and deviate provides opportunity for differentiation, personalizing and individualization of instruction. However, this sometimes results in inconsistency, burn out and a miss alignment of grades and mastery. It is my belief that a more balanced approach of autonomy and consistency will provide the right mix to ensure an effective learning institution.
When segmenting instructional practices into its menu of ingredients a closer look at the student experience in similar courses is necessary. When two teachers of the exact same content area are provided a significant level of autonomy without any required alignment deviation occurs. Weighting of assignments as a function of final grade, inflation of grades and a false representation of student mastery are all possible outcomes. If the experiences in one class over another are significantly different it demands a system of assessment that can determine the effectiveness of each decision.
When planning an effective secondary program a focus on teacher collaboration must occur. Whether through virtual or physical means an investment of such will support a directive of collaboration. Teachers working together can share their best practices, align experiences and develop common assessments to align their progress towards standards mastery. It is my belief that effective collaborative teams may invigorate the love of teaching as much as autonomy. The collective thought provides teachers with a deviation from isolation. The sharing of materials and ideas can dramatically decrease workload as well as develop teachers depth of instructional practices.