My dad is an English teacher. He’s been teaching since the day I was born. When my dad started his career, things were different for both teachers and students. After nearly 30 years as the Andover High School English Department Head (yes, the very high school I attended), a move across the country and a short-lived “retirement phase,” my dad began teaching again. This time, it was “part-time,” at an online high school in Arizona.
When he started his new part-time job the hours weren’t exactly part-time. Once he added in teacher training, administering AIMS tests, 24-7 student interaction on Blackboard and supplying a highly-experienced, well-used shoulder to lean on (or cry on), he was back to 40+ hours a week.
A notable change is evident in what my dad and I talk about when it comes to our careers. For years, he wasn’t exactly sure what I did. Graphic design, desktop publishing, printing and “all of that stuff” he’d say. It wasn’t until he started working at the online high school that we really started talking about curriculum, assessment tests, psychometrics and the changes that today’s students and teachers are facing. My dad left Massachusetts before standardized testing and graduation tests were in place. He arrived in Arizona to find standardized testing staring him square in the eye – and his daughter behind the curtain creating the tests.
State-specific standards and the newly adopted Common Core State Standards have changed what both of us do. For me and my company, it’s finding creative ways to leverage existing, proven curriculum and assessments for use within the CCSS mandates without losing the state specific connections. Many of the publishers with whom we work still plan to provide both CCSS and state-specific assessment products, so we need to keep track of both alignments. For my dad, it’s a little harder. As a state, Arizona is generally under-performing in both math and language arts, which means that he, and his fellow teachers throughout the state in virtual schools and “brick-and-mortar” schools, have quite a bit of work ahead of them. Arizona teachers, like others across the country, need to evaluate the alignments among their state, the CCSS, and their curriculum to determine where the differences lie, dedicate professional and curriculum development hours to these programs, and then implement effective programs to increase student learning.
And, being active in the development of these systems at the local level, he should help provide some of the answers too. We won’t know the full impact of CCSS for some time, but I’m sure that my dad and I will have plenty to talk about along this journey.