Monday, April 15, 2013

CCLS and APPR - Abbreviations Changing Education

I hope that all of you had a good week. Someone who did not have a great week is our Athletic Director, Mr. Burns. Due to the weather, he had to spend a LOT of time rearranging games in every sport. Luckily, it looks like we are heading into a decent stretch of weather which will allow us to get all of our games and contests caught up.

Also, a big congratulations to my better half, Mrs. Brown. She completed her first half-marathon yesterday in Central Park, New York City. She and about 9,000 other female runners had some wonderful weather and scenery to raise money for a great cause. We do everything together, so it was weird not to run with her (as it was a female only event), but it was pretty cool to cheer and watch her cross the finish line!

In my last blog I discussed standardized testing, and I mentioned that in this blog I would discuss the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) and the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) for teachers and principals.  I could use this space to get incredibly technical about both topics, but I don't think that would be as productive as a quick overview about each and how education today is being impacted by both programs.

In September of 2011 I mentioned to staff on opening day that anyone who was still working after July 1, 2012 would have to fasten their seat belts and be prepared for a pretty bumpy ride into the future. I also mentioned that our profession as we know it was going to change so radically that all of us "old dogs" (myself included) would have to learn some new and complicated tricks! Unfortunately, I think my prediction was pretty accurate.

Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS): In the most simplest of terms the Common Core Learning Standards represent a shift in how and what students will learn in each of the core subjects. The initiative starts at the lower grades in English and Math, followed by Science and Social Studies and will then roll forward into the high school.

The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, feels that the "CCLS" are necessary to become more globally competitive. His belief is that if ALL children learn the same things throughout their school experience, then they will be equally or more competitive as they enter college, the work force, or the armed forces. The material has to contain more complex concepts, more quickly, and students need to be constantly challenged. This link outlines in graphical form all of the states and territories that have adopted the "CCLS" to date. Virginia, Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Alaska, and Puerto Rico have yet to adopt the "CCLS".

For our children, the "CCLS" means that they will be asked to learn more abstract concepts at a younger age. For example, in math what WE (1970's-early 2000 graduates) learned as children in high school will probably be taught in some form as early as elementary school. In English, more non-fiction material will be used than fiction material so children can make connections to real life concepts more quickly.

The "CCLS" prescribe for teachers exactly what has to be taught. The schedule is aggressive so some teachers will find it frustrating that they cannot teach some of the topics that they have ALWAYS enjoyed teaching because they have to stick to the standards due to the timing of testing. I do think that as teachers become more familiar with the material and as more efficient means of testing become available, the space to be more creative in the classroom once again will exist. That certainly won't happen this year, in my professional opinion.

Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR): At the same time this is happening, our teachers and principals are being evaluated differently and for some this evaluation mechanism is the first time that an actual number and "grade" is being assigned to their performance and the performance of their students.  Teachers and Principals also have to collect "evidence" of student work, and they are required to show student growth through the use of data. The stress level surrounding this is high because everything is new, there is significant work required to collect "evidence", the transition to teaching the "CCLS" itself, the inability to be creative (at least for now), and the fear of how students are going to perform on the State Assessments because officials at the State "would not be surprised" if results are lower this first year.

We are fortunate...  Our teachers are experiencing all of the above, but as I walk hallways and classrooms during the school day you would never know that any of this stress exists. I see the stress break through in after school meetings, professional development sessions, and in faculty rooms on occasion which is perfectly normal for ANY organization experiencing this type of change.

So, the big question is...will I sign a petition against testing or against the "CCLS", and if not, will I be angry with people that do? No and no. As I tell my staff life is very, very short. Their work is their work, and their family time is their family time. If staff give their best effort and students give their best effort each day, everything else will work itself out no matter what they are asked to teach or learn.

Bottom line... I do believe that through a small window of time all of the bumps that we are experiencing will level out.  Even if I was fired up about it and wanted to refuse testing or the "CCLS", I am not in a position where that decision would matter to anyone. Only the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents can alter our course. We will make it work as long as they are asking us to move in this direction.

As for anyone else, parent, student, staff who might sign an anti-testing or "CCLS" petition, that is certainly their right and I would NEVER hold that against them. We are moving forward in the direction we were given. If someone wants to express their viewpoint, I might not agree, but I will ABSOLUTELY respect their views.

I could attach about two dozen links to this blog about testing, "CCLS", "APPR", etc... but I did not. If you are interested in all of the guiding information that is out there and you have Internet access, just do a quick search for "New York Common Core Learning Standards" and you will find what you need. If you would like me to send you more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Have a wonderful week, and I will write again soon.