Post written by Jill Bass, director of curriculum and teacher development for Mikva Challenge's Center for Action Civics. Connect with Bass by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. This post was originally featured in ASCD Express.
Every teacher has at least a handful of moments with students that make him or her think, "This is why I became a teacher." One such moment for me was on a campaign trip with about 60 students in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2007.
"We can't narrow the focus of our schools into just math and reading and still expect to graduate students who are ready for college, a career and citizenship," writes ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter in his special commentary for CNN's Schools of Thought blog. "A comprehensive education provides students the opportunity to discover what they excel at and inspires a boost in overall student performance and confidence across all subjects."
ASCD and more than 25 other major education organizations (including several whole child partners), representing a wide array of subject areas, are promoting consensus recommendations for how federal education policy can better support subject disciplines beyond reading, math, and science. The recommendations are a response to proposals that could threaten schools' and districts' ability to provide students with a comprehensive education that prepares them to graduate from high school ready for success in college, careers, and citizenship, and that narrows the definition of such readiness to only the Common Core State Standards.
Post submitted by whole child blogger Caroline Newton, a sophomore at Temple University. Newton is studying journalism and writes for Jump: The Philly Music Project magazine.
"How can we prepare our learners for the future? How can our learners cultivate global competence?" Heidi Hayes Jacobs of Curriculum21 asked in her ASCD Annual Conference session. The topic of the hour? Connecting the classroom and the school to the global world.
What does "college and career readiness" mean? The Common Core State Standards suggest some clear and reasonable criteria. Consider the example of critical thinking. The Common Core documents suggest that students must be able to examine claims, arguments, and evidence and determine whether or not the evidence supports the claim. In addition, students should be able to advance arguments and support their ideas with evidence. The Common Core also places a heavy emphasis on informational writing, a need highlighted by college professors frustrated by the poor writing skills of even high-achieving high school students.
For all the ink that has been spilled regarding the issue of differentiated instruction, little has been said about differentiated assessment. There is no doubt that students come to school with a variety of backgrounds and learning needs, and Carol Ann Tomlinson (Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006) and others (e.g., Stefanakis & Meier, 2010; Fogarty & Pete, 2010) have documented the importance of the issue and the potential success of the results.
The devil, as always, is in the details, and as Schmoker (2010) recently noted, some teachers find the demands of creating different lessons for the learning needs of each student overwhelming. Here are some practical ideas for busy teachers who want to meet the different needs of students while managing the demands on their already busy schedules.
Less than one-third of our nation's 8th graders can identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence. Fewer than one in five high school students are able to explain how citizen participation benefits democracy. And nearly 100 million U.S. citizens who were eligible to vote didn't exercise that right during the 2008 presidential election.
The study of ethics requires asking "What is right?" and "What is good?" In one form or another, most children ask these questions of themselves and their surroundings on a regular basis. As they mature into adolescents, justice issues—especially those that affect them—become a prominent part of this questioning process. For this reason, we consider ethics a great teaching opportunity.
In 1954, Elizabeth Johnson, 6th grade supervisor in a Kalamazoo, Mich., school, sought to empower her students and encourage critical thinking, reflection, and cooperation. To this end, she had her students write a group letter to their parents to provide a "good appraisal of their thoughts and work during their sixth grade year."
This time capsule reveals that the students were heavily focused on multicultural understanding and the ideals of democracy. The students described lessons learned from holding mock meetings of the Inter-American Conference and the Council of the Organization of American States, saying "we could learn to put ourselves in the other person's place and find out about other countries' problems. We tried to remember that if 'one nation is oppressed, then we all are oppressed.'"
A good portion of the letter recaps community connections: a visit from Kalamazoo Mayor Allen, who spoke on democratic practices in the city; talks with a local social worker and dentist; and a lesson with a state committee member who was working on the issues affecting migrant workers.