Conquer the Common Core and Love Your Job? Really?

  • Posted on: 25 February 2014
  • By: Tina McCoy

Really! The book, Tap Dancing to Work: How a Small Group of Teachers Can Conquer the Common Core, provides the means for teachers to work together to enhance standards-based instruction, improve outcomes for students, and put the joy back into teaching. Authors Michael White, Bonnie Grimm, Lindsey Young and Bob Stark have developed a practical, systematic way for any group of educators to get better results for students.

This book is a fantastic choice for practitioners who want to cut through the 'blur' of overload and focus on what matters most for students.  The readable format, manageable length, and abundant examples are definite advantages, but what is most valuable is the system that the authors have developed. Rather than describe the system for you, I'd like to offer Five Good Reasons why you should consider this approach for your school system.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1. The system requires teachers to collaborate together using their own skills, intellect and expertise to find solutions. Collaboration is a necessary component of professional learning, and it helps teachers learn from each other to develop their skills as a group.  It reminds me of a quote: "Everything you need is already within you.  The beauty of life is that your destiny lies always in your hands.  The time has come for you to step up and be great!"  (Pablo). The system enables teachers to use what they know to work through problems and boost the success of their students.

2. The system requires prioritization.  Educators, these days, are in a constant state of overload.  When school systems try to do all things for all people at once, nothing can improve.  On the other hand, when educators have a realistic way to prioritize, they can focus their energy where it belongs - on targeted instructional improvements.

3. The system is straightforward and simple, with no unnecessary complexity or high-powered jargon.  Educators have enough information swirling around.  The last think they need is an impractical approach that is removed from the realities faced by schools.  

4. The system requires the use of pretests to improve instruction.  This brings to mind something I recently read in a book by John Hattie and Gregory Yates (Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn, 2014). They assert, based on research, that prior learning (and misconceptions in prior learning) is the single most important factor that influences learning - more than IQ or learning styles.  Given that, it is amazing how underused pretests really are.  Pretests, when used to inform planning, can be used to proactively differentiate instruction and increase every student's opportunity to succeed and excel. 

5. The system requires teachers to focus on valued-added. In today's era of accountability in education, this cannot be stressed enough.  Regardless of the skills or knowledge of the students before instruction, they can and should all advance forward.  The system is not only deficit oriented.  It's gains-oriented, for all students. This helps teachers document progress and students understand and acknowledge their own accomplishments.

There is so much more I could say about the process of instructional improvement that is described in Tap Dancing to Work: How a Small Group of Teachers Can Conquer the Common Core.  However, I don't want to spoil it for you!  I encourage you to read the book yourself.  If you are interested the system and how it can help your organization improve student outcomes, contact Dr. Michael White (white_ecs@fuse.met) to find out more about the book and corresponding training opportunities.