What I did this summer: Focused

I unplugged. Really. I didn’t go online except to check my email once a week all summer long. It has been so refreshing. So what did I do with my time?

I trained for a half marathon, expanded my gardens, enjoyed time with friends and family and I read. I read for pleasure and I read for professional growth. For the first time in my career, I did not write curriculum over the summer. The reason? I read Mike Schmoker’s book Focus. Mike has some clear thoughts on this topic and that thinking influenced how I spent my time.

A summary: Instead of piling on one new reform fad after another, here is a book that boils down solutions for improved schools to the most powerful, simple actions and structures that ensure you prepare all students for college, careers, and citizenship. Best-selling ASCD author Mike Schmoker explains why and how to take a “first-things-first” approach to school improvement and focus laser-like on only three essentials:

  • Coherent curriculum (what we teach).
  • Sound lessons (how we teach).
  • Purposeful reading and writing (authentic literacy).

In making his case, Schmoker delves deep into the significance of the three essentials so you get a complete understanding of what they mean to your daily practice.

This book has been a game changer for me. Upon my return to school, I learned our new Director of Curriculum will be basing our back-to-school inservice on this book. I can’t wait to participate in this discussion!

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PA Standards Aligned System, Common Core Curriculum and Keystone Exams

I have just returned from a grueling 3.5 day inservice developed and delivered by PDE. The purpose was to teach/orient teachers, curriculum people, administrators and post-secondary institutions about/to “SAS” (Standards Aligned System).

What is the PA Standards Aligned System? It is “a comprehensive approach to support student achievement across the Commonwealth.” This will be a great resource for educators. Early focus for better instruction and learning: writing routinely, text complexity and discussion. If you haven’t looked this over yet, now is the time.

According to PDE, this is the official Common Core website–do not be confused by others! We (Pennsylvania educators) will have a three year transition to the common core. Our first focus will be on English and math.

We will concentrate on learning trajectories, rigor (Web’s DOK) and college and career readiness. (Note: In the 21st Century college and career readiness refer to the same knowledge and skill set-for more on this topic read Ken Gray’s Getting Real: Helping Teenagers Find Their Future) Rigor in English and math will also be followed and measured through literacy, science and social studies. PA students will be “doing, not just studying.”

You will be interested to know that Common Core standards do not have anchors. The result will be more standards than current PA core standards. PDE will be developing crosswalks from our traditional PA core standards to the new common core (AKA “CC”).


For a deeper look at CC

College & Career Readiness (CC)

Keystone Exams Overview