Collaborative Classroom Blog

An Inch Wide and a Mile Deep: Thinking Deeply About the Common Core Standards

By Isabel Sawyer | Categories: From the Field, Common Core Standards, Lesson Study

I spent the last couple of days with colleagues in Chicago at the Chicago Lesson Study Conference. Not only did we eat great snow crab legs in a “duck your head to get in down-under” restaurant (picture below), we also explored the common core standards and their connection to lesson study.

Mission Statement

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

In our new Common Core, there are fewer standards than exist in most state standard documents. Therefore, they are much more teachable and attainable for students. Our new national standards contain rigorous content and expect students to apply higher order skills-they view rigor as depth and complexity.

But, because of their complexity and thoughtfulness, we can’t just “cover” the national standards as we have with many of our state standards. At the conference, we were encouraged not to use words like alignment and covering when we reference the Common Core. Covering and alignment imply that our instruction is a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s NOT about covering any longer-what is important now is digging a mile deep and an inch wide into rigorous content.

Phil Daro begged us to stop writing the standard on the board in order to feel as if we have taught it-he said, Lesson study may be more than wonderful; it may be necessary. In order to understand the new standards we may have to engage in lesson study and explore them deeply and completely-more so than we have done with state standards in the past.

Steven Leinwand from the American Institutes of Research said, I know of no better professional development than to put a standard on the screen and discuss: What does this really mean? What other better way, then, to explore the new standards than through lesson study?

entrance to restaurant serving snow crab legs

(The crabs were almost as good as the Common Core conversation!)