By Linda Darling-Hammond
With the assistance of Channa Cook, Ann Jaquith, and Madlene Hamilton
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there,” observed the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. So it is in education. Without a clear understanding of what students should learn and how teaching can support them, it is easy to wander aimlessly. Developing a shared vision of educational goals and supportive instruction is essential to a building a system that can support effective teaching.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which most states have recently adopted, are one effort to achieve a more common vision of educational purpose. The CCSS seek to provide “fewer, clearer, and higher” expectations for learning across the grade levels in English language arts and mathematics. These standards are intended to provide guidance for understanding how students learn in a progressive fashion along skill strands, as well as what should be taught to enable them to be both college- and careerready by the end of high school.
States that have not adopted the Common Core standards can accomplish these goals in state-level standards. The key is to establish a clear conception of the learning objectives and kinds of instruction that will support disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) understandings within and across content areas. Such conceptions need to be supported by thoughtful curriculum frameworks and materials, as well as assessments that meaningfully evaluate what students know and can do across the full scope of the standards.
The recently adopted CCSS and similar state standards in the United States are very similar to the core curriculum expectations articulated in countries like Finland, Japan,Singapore, and South Korea. These countries have produced a set of standards, curriculum supports, and associated assessments that provide an essential context for teacher development and evaluation. A major part of teachers’ ongoing professional learning takes place as they develop, in collaboration with their colleagues, the specific lessons and assessment tools they will use in the classroom. These collaborative learning opportunities become very analytic and intensive with the use of strategies like Lesson Study, action research about practice, or Learning Circles.
Agreement about learning goals for students allows teaching standards to be aligned. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has created benchmarks for how accomplished veteran teachers can enact the kind of learning envisioned by student learning standards. Similarly, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) has revised its model licensing standards for beginning 6 Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education teachers, which have been adopted by over 40 states, to reflect the kind of teacher knowledge, skills, and understandings needed to implement the CCSS and other standards for student learning.
These efforts to align learning standards with teaching standards are expressed in performance terms: what teachers should know and be able to do to support student learning, rather than merely how many hours they should sit in classes or workshops to gain credits. Such efforts have begun to focus teacher preparation and development on effective practice.
However, there has been remarkably little effort to connect these standards to districts’on-the-job evaluations of teachers. Local teacher evaluations vary widely across districts, and are often based on checklists of teacher behaviors that are not associated with effectiveness. Thus, teachers encounter a wide variety of disjointed signals over the course of a career, and opportunities to develop high-quality practice are missed at every turn. A comprehensive approach to teacher evaluation would create more useful assessments for state licensure and advanced certification, and would use these as a framework for more meaningful local evaluations that occur on the job.
The world's top-performing school systems are said to be the model for new Common Core standards. Learn about the assessment systems in these countries, and how the results challenge the status quo in the United States.
BONUS VIDEO: Free Edutopia Webinar: "Lessons from Abroad: International Standards and Assessments"
The world's top-performing school systems are said to be the model for new Common Core standards. Professor Linda Darling-Hammond reveals the assessment systems in these countries, and how the results challenge the status quo in the United States.
Stanford University professor and noted researcher Linda Darling-Hammond discusses what the United States can learn from high-achieving countries on teaching, learning, and assessment -- from Finland to Singapore.