Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Observing the Common Core Classroom

Educators across the country are grappling with the Common Core Standards and the significant changes that have come with them.  Many Districts spent the end of last year and this past summer re-writing curriculum to address the new standards while also spending a great deal of money providing needed professional development to teachers.  With upgraded curricula and the knowledge gained from trainings teachers began in earnest this past September developing lessons to implement and assess the new standards.

With all the hoopla it took me a while to realize that something was missing.  Then it hit me last week as I was conducting an observation in a 10th grade English class.  How do administrators tasked with observing teachers know what they are looking for in a Common Core classroom?   Are students being assessed on the standards to demonstrate conceptual mastery and if so how?  Where is the professional development for administrators?  These essential questions need to be addressed if we are to provide valuable feedback  to teachers we observe and evaluate.  I needed help and fast.  As I continued to ponder some of these crucial questions while scripting the lesson on my iPad I remembered a free app that I had recently downloaded from Mastery Connect.

I know what you are thinking, this is one of those sponsored posts that a company has asked me to write.  I can assure you this is not the case and that I have absolutely no connection with Mastery Connect.  Now back to my story.  Once I launched the app I was kicking myself for not using it sooner.  I was able to quickly select Grade 10 Language Arts and locate what I thought were the Common Core Standards being addressed in the lesson. The key point here is that I was pretty sure on the standards being addressed, but not one hundred percent.  What is really great about this app is that it let me select the specific standards by content area and grade level, which then displayed key ideas and details related to the standards. It even broke down the corresponding College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standard.  Now I was sure of the standards that were being addressed and the effectiveness of the lesson.  This also led to, in my opinion, a much better prepared observation write-up and a discussion with the teacher on ways that she could better assess the standards during the lesson.

In my opinion a great deal more training needs to be provided to principals on observing the Common Core classroom.  Until then, I highly recommend that any administrator download the free Mastery Connect App, which is available for iOS, Android, and Windows devices. For more resources specifically for school administrators check out the list from NICHCY.  You can also visit my Pinterest board highlighting come Common Core resources, but be advised that this is still a work in progress.  How have you prepared to observe the Common Core Classroom? What resources have you found to be helpful with this transition? 

If you want to learn more about Mastery Connect and the resources they have for teachers check out this article from Getting Smart.


  1. A much better look for tool for CCSS math and ELA is CCL4s. A collaboration by leading educators -

  2. As a teacher, this scares the crap out of me.

    Principals are (or should be, anyway), master teachers. You know if what I'm doing in the classroom is effective, if it matters, if it resonates.

    Trust your instincts, big guy--things are going to explode in the next couple of years. We need folks like you to stay on their game, or we're all lost.

  3. Michael: I hear what you are saying loud and clear. The checklist only helps me to identify the standard and whether or not it is being appropriately addressed. This constitutes only about 5% of the actual observation and write-up. The rest is....we as you stated so eloquently ;)

  4. I think that more schools should do classroom evaluations. It seems to me that teachers just do their own thing without much input from those higher up. Having a proper education is key to proper cognitional development. If I was over a school, I would see about getting the teachers evaluated on a monthly basis. That way, I would be able to see what is and what isn't working.