by Sara Neufeld, The Hechinger Report
In the beginning, Pennsylvania was going to be like most other states, following a new set of national education standards and administering new national standardized tests.
But a lot has happened since 2010, when the state signed on to participate in what’s known as Common Core, an initiative designed to make the United States more globally competitive by ensuring students’ ability to meet basic benchmarks.
A Democratic administration turned Republican, and Gov. Tom Corbett took seriously conservatives concerned about the federal government infringing on states’ rights. In March 2012, Pennsylvania officials released their own document, known as the Pennsylvania Core Standards, which they call a hybrid between the national Common Core and the state’s own guidelines.
How reliable are tests in measuring what really matters for 21st-century learning? And should high-stakes tests really be used as a punitive evaluation of teacher quality? With all the controversy surrounding standardized tests and cheating, it’s time for teachers, parents, districts and policymakers to consider alternatives.
South Philadelphia senior Marcus Johnson stands at the front of his classroom eager to give his presentation on mammals. But there are no poster board cutouts here, no sketches across a blackboard, no pages borrowed from an animal encyclopedia. Johnson, with his back to a class that has iMacs and iPads, works the keys on his laptop computer with the focus of an engineer in a computer lab. After a few clicks, he turns to face his peers, and the website he designed – which gives vivid images and rich content about the animals he loves so much – fills the interactive projector at the front of the room.
Johnny Oliver has no doubt about the best unit that he’s taught – and is still teaching – at Freire Charter School.
It’s on radio, recording, and music. Every year students mark it on their teacher evaluations as the most popular project.
Working with Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon to develop a new organizational blueprint for the School District, seven “academic design subcommittees” have been meeting since February.
Curriculum development: This committee is expected to develop a pre-K to 12 curriculum with outcomes for each grade level that are aligned to college and career program goals and the new Common Core State Standards.
Marilynn Holmes ha enseñado 1er grado en la Escuela Elemental Isaac A. Sheppard en West Kensington desde el 1968. Natural de una pequeña ciudad de minas de carbón cerca de Pittsburgh, y graduada de lo que entonces se llamaba el Cheyney State College, ha sido testigo presencial de 40 años de cambios en el currículo.
Simon Hauger’s idea of a great lesson is this: ask the student “what is really near and dear to your heart” and then stand back, let the student take the lead, and watch the student’s efforts unfold.
Hauger, who runs the Sustainability Workshop with fellow teacher Michael Clapper, said students learn by doing, coming up with ideas, developing plans and completing projects, large and small.
Something in Brenda Wolbransky's classroom doesn't feel right.
The 32-year District veteran is pacing the rows of her honors English class at George Washington High, coaxing her students into a conversation about Lord of the Flies, the classic tale of British schoolboys who get trapped on an island and descend into anarchy.