Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Path to Get There

Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and Cristina Alfaro's new text, The Path to Get There: A Common Core Road Map for Higher Student Achievement Across the Disciplines, refers only to the ELA standards of the Common Core. They offer a detailed and readable explanation of the ELA standards with a focus on how they apply to history, social studies, science and technology as well as touching on English. They offer ways to introduce literacy, speaking and writing into the curriculum across these diverse subject areas. The book focuses on secondary instruction. For someone trying to unpack the standards this would be a worthwhile text, especially if they were concurrently trying to identify learning activities to support the standards at the same time.

Although the authors comment that they wanted to focus on how to address these increased standards for English Language learners and students with special needs, these specific issues do not receive as much attention as I would like. They do provide some brief insights to using collaborative instruction and small pull outs to help, but the overarching problem of helping students who were not successful on previous standards succeed on ones with increased rigor remains. Time in the school day remains short. The authors emphasize using personnel supports and generally good teaching techniques.

That said, the authors do provide a series of valuable exercises, strategies and ideas to use in the classroom to meet various CCSS goals. Their suggestions include specific examples skillfully described so that the reader can envision implementing the strategy at their level and content. The last chapter- Using literacy for formative instruction- is worth the price of the book. While formative instruction is a buzzword in today's educational circles, it is a technique that offers promise to improving instruction across the board.  They offer a process for recording information called an error analysis tool, which I have seen in other references (p. 143). This is a grid of objectives/common misconceptions against periods in which you record initials of students who have achieved objectives or demonstrated misconceptions. Then small groups may be formed to address reteaching or enrichment needs of individuals. If a teacher is truly trying to differentiate to meet the needs of her students, such a process is essential.

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