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Over the weekend one of our TeacherReady students asked us for more information about “aligning instruction to [the common core] standards.” This question reminded us of the importance of sharing with pre-service and new teachers our experiences as educators, researchers, and leaders: It is all about leading teachers to become great and student learning results. Thus, welcome to our “Who’s Engaged?” blog.

If you are not familiar with the Common Core State Standards the following resources provide information about their history and, as one article is titled, what they “can and can’t do.” The first article is from Time magazine and presents the benefits that come from instituting a common core while acknowledging that common assessments are also needed to legitimize comparisons across states. The author suggests what is important, however, is that “the new standards offer a common denominator in public education to help think about student performance and productivity… a common benchmark for quality” (p. 2). A 2009 publication from Educational Testing Services provides a recent history of educational policy. The report also presents discussion that is taking place about the common core and decisions that are relevant in “achieving common standards” (p. 3).

What about our TeacherReady student’s question about aligning instruction to the common core standards? Chapter 4 of Who’s Engaged? provides teachers actions to take to communicate student learning expectations because students learn when they know what is expected of them. Clearly written learning targets shared with students not only communicate expectations to students but they also help teachers know what they are assessing as students are learning.

When writing learning targets teachers must align them with content/core standards while at the same time aligning them with learning tasks for students and both formative and summative assessments. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides teachers with the help they need to create learning targets that scaffold learning. That is, multiple learning targets are written for complicated skills that allow students to achieve less complex skills before asking them to problem solve at a more complicated level. It is important to communicate each learning target and its relevance to a final learning goal. See page 6 in Effective Teacher GPA for instructional prompts aligned with the cognitive levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. However, aligning learning targets with the core standards is only part of the process. Remember, too, that to help students achieve at their best academic levels we must provide them with opportunities to practice (the learning tasks) and provide them with very specific and timely feedback.

TeacherReady is an online alternative teacher certification program targeted to individuals interested in a career transition to the teaching profession. TeacherReady is a state approved, NCATE accredited alternative certification program affiliated with the University of West Florida. Visit our website or connect with us on Facebook for more information.