Common Core Connections: How To Meet Student Needs Through Standards-Based Instruction

President Obama has made it clear that every American needs to “get more than a high school diploma.” Enter the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Educators concur with the CCSS and its mission that students must develop specific skills and background knowledge in preparation for the task of getting more.

As educators implement the CCSS in classrooms, they should ask students what knowledge and skills they might need to succeed after graduation. In a recent online conversation between College Summit (an organization that partners with 180 high schools across the country to help students succeed in college and career) and students from New Haven, Connecticut, here’s what the students said: 

  1. Emphasize planning ahead. Students described the importance of developing, revising, and implementing plans. One student summarized the sentiment: “I feel that preparing for life after high school means having a plan. It means having something to work towards.” It’s also important for educators to allow each student to pursue his or her planning autonomously so they can achieve independence after they graduate.  As the Common Core anchor standards in reading, writing, and speaking highlight, students should be able to both accomplish tasks related to academic work and career interests, and to sustain these efforts over longer periods of time—without the direct support from their teachers. 
  2. Personalize students’ educational roadmaps.  Students also want to be able to personalize their educational roadmaps. As addressed in the Literacy Standards, students need to be autonomous and to learn how to “evaluate complex texts” and “construct effective arguments.” In doing so, they develop the competencies necessary to become “self-directed learners” and to develop roadmaps that work for them.
  3. Facilitate the development of multiple literacies. Students also want to develop multiple literacies. One student emphasized the importance of analytical skills and deep subject knowledge: “Young people should know a lot about math, science, English, history, writing, and even another language.” Other students cited financial literacy and the ability to communicate effectively as integral to success. Overall, students recognize that future success depends on cultural as well as academic literacy. The CCSS support this approach by emphasizing complex informational texts and sophisticated non-fiction, as well as literature and conversational skills.
  4. Connect student needs to the work of the Common Core. Educators can and should talk about the Common Core standards with students. Connecting what high school students say they need with the standards that guide instructional decisions can help students achieve post-secondary success.

In sum, by starting with an assessment of student needs and explicitly aligning those needs to the CCSS, educators may be better equipped to help students prepare for the college and career interactions that will follow high school.

July 02, 2013