The New Common Core Standards and ABE Curricula

The Common Core Standards (CCS) for Mathematics and English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects specify the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines. As a natural outgrowth of meeting the charge to define college and career readiness, the Standards also lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century. To ensure an orderly and full implementation of the Common Core Standards into the adult basic education curricula, administrators and teachers must re-examine the ABE service delivery model.

Administrators and the Common Core Standards
A realistic assumption in the implementation of the CCS in public schools is that K-12 teachers will be highly trained and competent instructors of their content area at their particular grade level. It is, however, unreasonable to suggest that an ABE teacher possesses expertise in leading instruction in the 700+ anchor standards found in the CCS. It is suggested that administrators explore level-specific staffing models that place students in a structured instructional program—staffed by teachers who have received level-specific, ongoing training in content and andragogical best practices—featuring sequential promotion of students through ABE levels I, II, and III based upon documentation of their mastery of content.

Administrators in the near term must build professional learning communities to advance the effectiveness of instructional delivery for students and professional development for staff. Entities that can contribute to this community may include K-12 public schools, WIA boards, community colleges, career and technical centers, CBOs, business and industry, textbook vendors and providers of online resources. Community colleges are recognized in many states as the premier institution in the design and delivery of workforce training that meets local/regional job market needs. ABE administrators may find that community colleges are a willing partner in the design and delivery of professional development activities that address the CCS and teaching proficiency.

It is incumbent that administrators of adult education begin a process of program evaluation and ask themselves two questions during this initial period of CCS adoption:

  • How can I reallocate static resources to build and/or maintain an instructional program that stresses rigor while retaining all learners through to the completion of their studies?
  • How can I design professional learning communities that advance the content knowledge and andragogical skills of my teaching staff?

Teachers and the Common Core Standards
One key feature of the CCS is seen in its call for students to comprehend and critique literary and informational texts and to draw upon and write about evidence gleaned from their reading. Teachers must lead students in developing the ability to discern more from and make fuller use of texts, including making an increasing number of connections among ideas and between texts, considering a wider range of textual evidence, and becoming more sensitive to inconsistencies, ambiguities, and poor reasoning in texts.

Another key feature of the CCS is seen in its balanced combination of procedure and understanding in mathematics.  Students who lack an understanding of a topic may rely too heavily on procedures.

Without a basis in understanding, learners are less likely to consider analogous problems, justify conclusions, apply mathematics to practical situations, use technology mindfully to work with mathematics, step back for an overview, deviate from a known procedure to find a shortcut—in others words, they fail to display the procedural skill and fluency that underpin success in postsecondary and career endeavors.

It is incumbent that all teachers of adult education begin a process of self inspection and ask themselves two questions during this initial period of CCS adoption:

  • How can I develop a plan for my own professional development?
  • How can I infuse “guided instruction” and retire “self-directed learning” in my classroom?

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