Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#D100BLOGGLERPD HaCkInG tHe CoMmOn CoRe: HaCk #6 PrIoRiTiZe

Hack # 6  Prioritize

I just have to start with a question... Why hasn't every teacher read this book? All of the "HACKING" books are good, but this one?  Oh, this one is just so perfect for teachers. Talk about breaking things down and spelling things out.  It's sort of the exact opposite of the CCSS themselves.  A word that tends to be synonymous with the CCSS is OVERWHELMING.  There is so much meat in those standards that often times teachers are intimidated by the unpacking. I myself have felt this way about the standards. As an administrator I am not looking at the CCSS like I used to for planning but still need to be knowledgable about them in order to support my teachers.   The Common Core Standards do not have to be scary and intimidating.  This book and especially this HACK helps to take some of the pressure off and shows you how to PRIORITIZE THE STANDARDS.

According to Michael Fisher, "to truly make a difference in student learning, teachers need to understand that some of the standards have priority over others."  Start with your assessments. Look at what you are assessing and decide if you are covering critical or priority standards. Are you assessing foundational knowledge or repeating concepts that come up over time?  It is okay to weed things out that don't pack that much of an educational punch.  Probably important to note here that others may disagree with that statement. I love Fisher's idea of changing the preposition: "Your job isn't to teach to a test but to teach for success on any assessment."

The next suggestion from Fisher is to THINK IN BUNDLES.  When you know what standards lend themselves to one another, you can cut down on your time spent integrating them into your lessons bc they are naturally covered throughout the content.  Listening and speaking standards are almost automatically present as students demonstrate their learning.


STEP 1:  IDENTIFY WHAT WILL BE ASSESSED :  Check out state testing guides before state assessments occur.  We here in Illinois would look at the PARCC Model Frameworks to help us narrow our focus on the standards covered.

STEP 2:  DISCERN WHICH OUTCOMES HAVE LEVERAGE IN OTHER CLASSES :  Some of the standards are covered throughout different content areas.  Consider collaborating with content specific teachers and possibly creating an integrated project of sorts.

STEP 3:  IDENTIFY LIFE LONG SKILLS : Any concept or idea that students need that will serve them into the future.  It is imperative we not gloss over those foundational skills which then create bigger gaps in learning.  

STEP 4:  EVALUATE STUDENT READINESS : This is an extension of step 3.  "Pushing students before they have the capacity to learn also forms gaps over time and their frustration creates lifelong anti-learners who aren't willing to try."  In short, students need to be ready before moving on.

STEP 5:  KNOW WHAT TEACHER EVALUATION ENTAILS : (Hack 1 is helpful here) Make sure that instructional shifts, college and career readiness capacities, and mathematical practices are represented in your curriculum and every day practices. 

STEP 6:  ENSURE THAT YOUR CURRICULUM FREQUENTLY PRESENTS PRIORITY STANDARDS :  Dig into your curriculum and find redundancy and overlap with priority standards.

STEP 7:  REORGANIZE AND RE-IMAGINE YOUR CURRICULUM TO REFLECT PRIORITIES: Analytic reading, foundational math concepts, and scaffolds for sophisticated demonstrations of learning should show up on a regular basis in your teaching/learning.


D100 gets a big thumbs up here.  We have been in the process of getting our curriculum and assessment cleaned up. The leadership team in D100 has been working with the Center for School Improvement (CSI) to concentrate on creating goals for future success.  Aligning curriculum and assessments are a pivotal piece to the puzzle.  Pushback is going to enter the equation when things aren't clear or instruction doesn't align to the standards. If communication isn't happening at all levels then consistency isn't happening and then you find yourself getting pushback.  
Currently we are all working on creating rigorous assessments.  But Fisher warns us against aligning our assessments to new standards without actually changing our instruction at all. Two questions teachers should ask themselves to help deter this from happening: 1) Does my professional practice represent what is in the best interest of my students, and 2) Am I trying to hang on to the way I've always done it?  We can't just focus on changing the assessments without changing our instruction.

"Find the priorities, look for overlaps, and work smarter, not harder!"

Thanks for reading everyone! Let me know what you think or any insights you have about Hack # 6. Check out Hack #7 Vigor vs. Rigor with Ms. Gonzales


  1. I was talking to teachers about this today! We were discussing Writing Standards 1 and 2 (7th grade teachers). I reminded them that the skills that students learn in Reading Standards 1-4, Language Standard 4, and Speaking and Listening Standards 2 and 3 are all interrelated around claims, evidence, and inferences. The reading standards support the receptive learning and the other standards represent opportunities for expressing their proficiencies from lower level demonstrations (speaking) to higher level demonstrations (writing). It's very difficult, I think, to think about the standards singularly when you consider what sort of naturally goes together. It's the difference between understanding that birds are an important part of a particular habitat and understanding all of the interconnected organisms in an entire ecosystem. Ecosystem thinking is what I'm advocating for! (I might blog about that myself!!!) Thanks for what you wrote here--and excellent pic in your avatar! -Mike Fisher

  2. Yes, we need to change our instruction! Reconsider "how we have always done it"! This reminds me of the discussions we have been having in math about focusing on the Math Practices... the "how" we teach and learn math. Great post and reflections on this hack. Thanks! :)