"It's a shorter version, but more compact and more meaningful version of the standards that we are teaching our children," Liz Brazeel, a third-grade teacher at the Math and Science Leadership Academy in Denver, said.
Common Core Standards were developed by the National Governor's Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. They developed the Common Core after looking at State Standards from across America and from around the world.
"It just brings common language to what is expected of children," Sue Curtis, a second-grade teacher at MSLA, said.
Forty-three states across the country, including Colorado, have adopted the standards. It's designed as a way to align curriculum across state lines. The goal is to establish a system of concepts that all students should know before graduating high school in order to be ready for college or a career.
"Part of the change is just the processes that kids use," Curtis said. "Come up with different solutions and justify your solution, and know that you're right and know when that person is wrong, and those are all skills that we need to negotiate the world."
Last summer, teachers at MSLA had to reconfigure their math lessons to comply with the Common Core Standards.
"We charted everything that we need to know that's different in the Common Core Standards opposed to the regular standards that we've had for years," Brazeel said. "It helps me focus on what's more important for students."
Teachers say it took some time to make the adjustments.
"Lined them up on the wall and we mapped from kindergarten to first grade, what are seeing that the Common Core Standards is asking for," Curtis said.
Curtis says the Common Core Standards are asking students to use more critical thinking skills and communication skills. She says working collaboratively is a big focus as well.
Making changes to meet the Common Core Standards may have been easier at MSLA. This is a one-of-a-kind school in Colorado. It is completely teacher-run. There are no administrators in the building.
"Because of our structure, because of the ability that we have to do quick adjustments, we may very well be ahead of the game in terms of the implementation," Lori Nazareno, co-lead teacher at MSLA, said.
Nazareno may handle some logistical administrative duties at the school as a co-lead teacher, but she says the process is truly a teacher democracy.
"Everybody takes ownership when everybody has significant responsibilities," Nazareno said.
Curtis says if they need to make further changes to better meet the Common Core Standards, they will.
"I don't think we're perfect yet," Curtis said. "But, we're still working to infuse those Common Core Standards."
Brazeel agrees. She says she enjoys helping to change the way teachers teach at the teachers' school.
"We're all leaders. If you have an idea, present it, go for it, do it," Brazeel said. "We are learning that we can actually take charge and do different projects that we want to do with our students."
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