Where Do We Begin?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~Lao-tzu Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

With every new task we undertake, there is the question of where to begin. Sometimes the first step is obvious and other times there are various options. Moving to the Common Core State Standards could be equated to the journey of a thousand miles, in that it requires new learning for the majority of teachers in the nation.

Obviously, one of the first steps is to acquaint oneself with the grade level and subjects one is required to teach. However, on a larger scale, it is important to be familiar with all the standards. It is important to understand what content students have already been exposed to, been expected to master, and what they will be learning in the future.

Another critical component to be aware of is the transition timeline we will encounter as we move from our old system of standards to the new Common Core Standards. Without careful investigation and gradual implementation of the Common Core, students will have gaps in their understandings when the new assessments are fully implemented.

The Kansas Department of Education has recommended that teachers of Kindergarten and First Grade begin implementing the Common Core Standards in 2011-2012. The rationale is that those students will never have to take the current state assessment and this would alleviate part of the gaps we might experience when we are fully implementing and assessing the Common Core Standards.

At Essdack, we are working to make teachers’ first steps into the Common Core meaningful by providing days for investigating the content at their grade level. We also recommend investigating the crosswalks between the current state standards and the Common Core. As teachers learn where the Common Core and current standards overlap and differ, they will be able to design instruction that should lessen the gaps that might occur when the new assessments are implemented.

“Sum”thing new to start digging into!

Hi, I am Renee' Smith and I began teaching math in, of all places, a maximum security prison. “I was 21 years old and 99 lbs. soaking wet. Some of my students were convicted murderers and as scary as it sounds, it was incredibly sad. Many of those men had failed in the school system and then turned to crime.” That early experience with public school dropouts, cemented my resolve to help future students understand and succeed in the area of mathematics. To that end I dedicated 16 years to the classroom, teaching 5th grade math through algebra. After obtaining my Masters in Education from Baker University, I joined the ESSDACK team in 2007. I have presented at the local, state, and national levels but my most worthwhile experience at ESSDACK has been working to take the fear out of math for teachers and students alike. Although my primary focus has been providing professional development in mathematics, I also devote time to podcasting and creating materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. My podcasts include, By the Numbers, Just Desserts and Math Snacks. Working at ESSDACK has provided me the opportunity to do many of the things I love. “I have the time to research current educational practices, I get to be creative, collaborative, and I meet tons of new people."

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