Core Samples

Grokking the Core: How the Common Core Depends Upon Highly Developed Digital Age Learning Skills – by Ferdi Serim

College and Career Readiness doesn’t happen without highly developed 21st Century Skills. The disconnect between the continuous learning demanded in “real life” on the job and the way our schools deliver education (in seats and rows with the answers in the back of the book and covered on the test) is what sparked the movement to the Common Core in the first place. Regardless of the scores our students earn when the new assessments roll out in 2013-14, the true test will be what they can do upon graduation. Employers express what’s needed as “the Seven C’s of 21st Century Learning” which include: critical thinking; creativity and innovation; collaboration; cross-cultural understanding; communication; computing technology; and career learning. These skills are woven through the fabric of the Common Core, and that is a new challenge for every educator.

As school leaders, we face the daunting task of simultaneously living under outmoded accountability models (that keep score of how our schools and teachers are graded), and shrinking resources (of time, people and money) to make sure we’re doing everything possible to prepare students for real life success. It is the ultimate leadership issue, and like the Wizard of Oz, it will take heart, brains and courage to apply the potentials digital learning can provide.

We must rapidly elevate practice within our school cultures, and doing so means using our brains, collaboratively. Dr. Robert J. Marzano quips that too many schools resemble a building with 100 independent contractors connected by a shared parking lot. Until now, what we teach and how we teach (and whether we use technology in the process) has remained an individual decision. Common Core changes everything. Research demonstrates that anything less than 49 hours of PD per year doesn’t change classroom practice or increase student achievement. Digital age professional learning represents the only scalable, sustainable, affordable strategy for connecting every educator in our state with the information and support they will require to upgrade their practice. This is something we can accomplish together.

We must elevate the tasks we ask students to perform, and this takes lots of heart. The Rigor, Relevance and Relationships framework (see suggests essential strategies for promoting higher standards and student achievement. The new performance tasks demand higher thinking and deeper learning, modeled on how content area knowledge is applied in “real life”. Only if we begin making sure today that both we and our students get plenty of “deliberate practice” can we have confidence that students will be ready to meet the challenge. Where will we find the time to do this? By extending learning beyond the school day, through blending face-to-face and online learning strategies.

We must replace habit and nostalgia as a basis for decisions. This takes great courage. College and Career Readiness challenges us to consider and explore innovations that require us, and everyone we work with (students, parents, peers and school leaders), to examine everything we do through a very rigorous lens: if what we do is helping kids prepare for a future filled with expanded opportunity, we will continue to do it; if not, we won’t, and we will remove any obstacle that stands in the way.

(originally published as Rising To The Challenge Of The Common Core in the NMCSA March 2012 Newsletter)

Leave a Reply