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Frequently Asked Questions Photo: Questions, Questions, Questions

About Nearly Anything Related to Jordan School District’s Implementation

of the Core State Standards of Utah

  1. The JSD Language Arts Core State Standards site continues to make corrections, revisions, and additions. How can teachers stay informed of these updates and changes?
    1. To accommodate this need, a Twitter account has been set up. Teachers can either become a follower of CCoreUpDates or go to the JSD Core State Standards site where the updates are posted in the right column under “Tweeting CCore Updates.”
    2. Because changes are being made to the maps, teachers should not download them at this time, but should check the JSD Common Core site often for updates.
  2. What kind of testing will assess the Core State Standards, and when will it be put into place?
    1. The Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC), one of two multi-state consortia, is developing an assessment based on the new Core State Standards, and Utah is part of the group of “governing” states.
    2. Based on information from the Smarter Balance Consortium, the assessments will include:
      1.  Performance tasks
      2. Computer adaptive assessment – based upon the students’ responses, questions become easier or harder
      3. Constructive response tasks (short answer)
      4. Currently, the projected implementation is as follows:
        1. Test-Item Pilots: 2012 and 2013
        2. Test Pilots: 2014
        3. Operational Summative Assessment administration: 2015
      5. For further information, go to the following USOE link:
      6. Sample performance assessment questions can be found in Common Core State Standards: Appendix B: Text Exemplars and Sample Performance task
  3. Is there a possibility that after implementing this new core, students will still end up being tested on the old core? 
    1. Yes, until the new Core State Standards assessment tool is implemented, the Criterion-Referenced Tests (CRTs) and the Direct Writing Assessment (DWA) will test the Utah Language Arts Core Curriculum that was implemented in 2006.
      1. State administrators do not believe that teaching the Core State Standards will impact scores in a negligible way as the new core addresses all that the 2006 Utah core covers.
      2. To help with this concern, state and district administrators and selected teachers conducted a “gap analysis” comparison of the existing ELA Core and the Common Core.
    2. See results of this detailed alignment at the following USOE site under “Alignment Documents by Grade”:
  4. Where does reading fit in the new core? How do reading classes in Jordan support the new language arts core?
    1. Reading classes and the reading standards – reading informational text and literature – are great fits. Various indicators within the writing, speaking and listening, and language standards should also be incorporated into classroom instruction to strengthen reading comprehension.
    2. Reading and language arts teachers should work together with the cross curricular essential questions because each serves as the primary focus in teaching the standards of the core. There are multiple ways to accomplish that goal, but whatever vehicle is used, themes are the context within which the standards are taught and learned.
  5. The  Core State Standard language standards include objectives that address affixes and roots. Because there are no suggested lists for these objectives, what resources should teachers use?
    1. Jordan School District has determined that teachers should use the suggested prefixes, suffixes, and roots found in the USOE Secondary Core Curriculum: Language Arts 7-12, 2006, Appendix A, starting on page 57.
  6. Why do teachers have to use themes? 
    1. To understand the decision to use a thematic context within which to teach the standards, review the rationale as stated on the home page of this site.
    2. The third paragraph states: The process model encourages a variety of rich language arts experiences within the context of a universal theme with accompanying essential questions that stimulate reflection and may cause students to re-evaluate and adjust their thinking over time (Re-Imagining Content-Area Literacy Instruction p.116).
    3. While teaching standards in isolation may support students’ learning in the short-term, such practice is not effective in creating critical thinkers or life-long learners.
    4. Please keep in mind that teachers can approach and discuss the Core State Standards Map’s theme/topic using the cross-curricular essential questions.
      1. Most students will not respond favorably to studying the topic: “Urban Settings in American,” but they could be engaged with the essential question: “How does our environment influence who or what one becomes?”
      2. We recommend starting with the universal, cross-curricular question to engage learners and provided a context for students as they work through the language arts standards.
    5. When working on the high school units, we determined that more themes with associated enduring understanding statements and essential questions needed to be developed.
      1. This allows teachers more options that can be matched up with units.
      2. The secondary LA department plans to create more themes/motifs/topics for middle school as well.
  7. Considering the increased expectations with the new core, how will the needs of Special Ed students be met?
    1. While more collaboration with special education departments and teachers need to take place, the creation of the district’s Language Arts “I Can” statements should establish a starting place for both teachers and students in measuring what special needs students should know and be able to do.
    2. Teachers may find it advantageous to break down the “I Can” statements into even smaller segments for special ed students.
    3. Because the Core State Standards are a K-12 core, the same standards are taught throughout a student’s entire education. This creates a natural “looping” situation where students build on what they have learned and then go deeper into the core as complexity increases.
  8. How is Special Ed going to be tested? What accommodations will be allowed to keep the testing authentic and valid? 
    1. According to Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium, creator of Common Core State Standards testing, the following are priority items:
      1. “… standardized accommodations policy and administration practices across states to ensure comparability”
      2. “ensure that all students have access to the technology needed to participate in each component (summative, interim/benchmark, formative)"
      3. “Support research on how to use technology to increase access for all students, in particular those needing accommodations”
    2. “Accommodated versions for students with disabilities and English Language Learners include the following: Contrast, read aloud, enlarged print, and Braille."
  9.  How will teachers help English Language Learners with these standards?
    1. The Utah State Office of Education adopted the World-class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) standards in 2010 because the U.S. Department of Education Monitoring determined that the former English-Language Proficiency standards were not aligned with the Utah core.
    2. The language arts department is working on documents that incorporate the WIDA standards and “Can-Do” statements into the JSD Common Core maps. (Go HERE to see the sample unit.)
    3. These “WIDA/JSD-CCSS” maps will help teachers know how to support English Language Learners who are new to the country and those who are further along in acquiring English proficiency.
    4. Review the “ELL-WIDA Standards” page to learn more.
  10. How will we set up common and formative assessments so that they relate to the national performance assessment that is being proposed?
    1. Secondary Language Arts will create formative performance assessments over the next few months, but schools are encouraged to create their own common and formative assessments.
    2. These assessments created by the district will use MY Access Online Writing program for the following reasons:
      1. It is possible that scoring engines will score the essays and short answer questions.
      2. MY Access is a versatile online writing program that can be used to create performance-based assessments.
      3. My Access provides immediate feedback.
      4. Although scoring engines are imperfect, MY Access is one of the most accurate on the market at this time.
    3. For performance assessment examples, revisit formative assessment samples found in Appendix B.
    4. Many schools currently create their own common assessments that use various testing methods, and there is no reason this practice cannot continue.
      1. Our department encourages short answer common assessments versus multiple choice questions.
  11.  How can we work out our booklist between grade levels? The current book lists needs to be reevaluated as directed by the new core grade-level objectives and then respected.
    1. In answering this question, there are some points to consider:
      1. The Core Standards' grade-level objectives consider more than a high Lexile level (a quantitative analysis) as text-complexity also includes “qualitative” analysis and “reader and task considerations.”
      2. The “suggested works” listed in the Core State Standard Mapping Project are NOT required reading.
      3.  The secondary language arts department started re-evaluating literature selections last spring and moved several works from high school to middle school.
      4.  Because the Core roll-out to high schools occurred in spring 2012, this process will continue.
      5.  In the meantime:
        1. schools can review the annotated list of approved books to seek out overlooked possibilities
        2. submit texts that meet these “new” objectives to the literature selection committee
  12.  What if the Core State Standards Mapping Project maps have moved a text traditionally taught on one grade level to a different grade? Do teachers have to surrender it? For example, the focus of seventh grade’s unit 3 is Anne Frank, but the play, based upon the diary is included in the eighth-grade anthology.  What should teachers do?
    1. The Literature Selection Committee decides that a text is appropriate for a middle or high school audience and recommends a grade level, but schools can decide at which grade an approved text should be used.
    2. Because the Anne Frank play is in most 8th grade anthologies, there is no reason it cannot stay there. Studying Anne Frank in unit 6 would work really well with the theme - "The Road Not Taken".
      1. The essential questions found in that unit also work well with a study of Anne Frank: ”How can literature help us define the greater good?” and ”When are risks against conventional society worth taking for the greater good?”
    3. For the seventh grade theme, “Determination,” the holocaust novel Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen is also suggested in the Core State Standards Mapping Project maps. Teachers can use many of the  ideas and resources presented in that unit, along with a variety of more difficult reading materials to increase text complexity.

Note: Devil’s Arithmetic is an approved novel found on the elementary list.