Common Core Checklist: What to Know Before You Buy

3/28/2013 By:

Just about every new product to hit the edtech space is touting that it is “aligned with Common Core standards” as a prime feature. But how can schools be sure these companies aren’t just finessing existing features to fit broad CCCS definitions? Tech & Learning asked the following experts for their recommendations on questions educators should ask to confirm that a product actually is meeting Common Core standards: Douglas Clements, a Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning and Professor at the University of Denver, Julie Sarama, a Kennedy Endowed Chair in Innovative Learning Technologies and Professor at the University of Denver, and Timothy Shanahan, a Professor of Urban Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is Director of the UIC Center for Literacy. Here are their replies.

Math

By Julie Sarama and Dougla s H. Clements

■ Does the program provide appropriately rigorous and coherent mathematics instruction? Does it provide teachers and students the opportunity to understand and apply the major ideas and procedures for each grade (i.e., does it attend explicitly to the concepts for each grade, connecting mathematics concepts, procedures, and facts)?

■ Do the materials, tools, and digital offerings provide teachers and students a variety of ways to pursue conceptual understanding, procedural skill, and fluency?

■ Does the program provide opportunities for meaningful application of the Standards for Mathematical Practice? Are the content and practice standards consistently woven together in a coherent curriculum in every grade level?

Is the curriculum built on learning progressions (i.e., learning trajectories) from grade to grade that help students relate grade-level concepts to prior knowledge and build a solid foundation for future learning?

■ Does the program require students to engage in challenging mathematical thinking and problem solving, including academic discussions that explicitly use the specialized language of mathematics? Are there instances that prompt students to construct viable arguments and engage in real-world problem solving?

■ In general, does the program go beyond programs that were available before the advent of the CCSS, rather than simply stating that it is “compatible with the CCSS,” without substantive change?

Reading

By Timothy Shanahan

■ Does the program provide appropriately challenging texts that align with the complexity requirements of CCSS, along with sufficient instructional supports to allow students to read these texts effectively and to increase the text levels that they are able to read?

■ Does the program provide sufficient and appropriate supports to enable students to be effective close readers who are capable of interpreting text through analysis and interpretation (e.g., not revealing too much information about texts prior to student reading, encouraging re-reading, asking appropriate sequences of “text-dependent” questions, and emphasizing the identification and use of text evidence)?

■ Does the program provide a range of reading experiences, including both close reading and re-reading of shorter, challenging texts, more extended readings of longer texts, and research?

■ Does the program require that students write to sources and research (e.g., summarizing, analyzing, and critiquing texts, researching and synthesizing information from multiple sources, revising texts, and using text evidence to support arguments)?

■ Does the program require students to engage in academic discussions that effectively connect reading, writing, speaking, and listening?

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