The Common Core, Aligned Assessments, and the 21st-Cantury Classrooms

Besich, Lauren
Riley, C. (2013). The Common Core, aligned assessments and the 21st-century classroom: Lessons learned from educators. Techniques: Connecting Education & Careers, 88(8), 24-28.  Retrieved from
CA- Common Core Assessments
Summary: Callie Riley’s article about Common Core and its aligned assessments (PARCC and SBAC) give students practical opportunities to apply knowledge.  The tests differ from existing ones in that they do not measure students’ abilities to recall information, but on how they work through a problem and show their answer. 
She encourages teachers to create practical experiences for their students, to use open access resources for the assessments to give them directions, and to collaborate with teachers near and far through websites like Creative Commons to share their own, or use Common Core aligned lessons created by other teachers.  If teachers apply these suggestions, teachers will find that Common Core reflects what we want to see happen in the classroom in the 21st century. 
Evaluation: I appreciated Riley’s perspective in this article, as she views Common Core as an opportunity to improve teaching and learning inside classrooms.  Sadly, I quit teaching a year and a half ago when my son was born, so I was only exposed to CCSS a little bit.  In my exploration of them in my SLIS studies, I feel that there are fewer standards, and the language (compared to the language used in the Arizona State Standards) is easier for me to understand.  I like what Riley says about the new assessments focusing not on memory recall, but on problem solving skills, which I believe my student lacked in the past (and likely due to my superficial teaching).   Problem solving skills are the skills we use at work, at home, and in our relationships, so it is natural that those are the skills curriculum standards should strive to build.  I’m looking forward to the day our schools are no longer compartmentalized, but blended learning environments that more closely mirror our lives in society. 

SAMR Exemplified

Besich, Lauren

Oxnevad, S. (2013, July 4). “Using SAMR to teach above the line.” Getting Smart. Retrieved from
In this article, Susan Oxnevard explains why teaching above the line in the SAMR model is important.  Typically when teachers begin technology integration they use it at the substitute or augmentation level. For example, the students would type their essay instead of writing it, or students would look for definitions in an online dictionary instead of the physical one sitting on the bookshelf.  Those substitution tasks don’t really boost learning.  The real benefit to technology integration is when it is used to complete tasks that were impossible before (modification and redefinition). 
Oxnevard said that teachers need to find digital tools that are appropriate for the task, and provides an example toolkit she assembled to encourage student-driven learning experiences around research, writing and the Common Core. 
One particularly helpful portion of the article was Oxnevard’s lesson sample of each SAMR level.  This helps teachers visualize and understand the differences between the different levels.
I’m so glad I read this article, because I now have a better grasp of the SAMR model.  The examples Oxnevard provided were most beneficial, as they provide me a framework to reference in the future.  The big push in the article is to teach above the line at the modification and redefinition levels, which will only be possible if the teacher makes time to discover and explore the ever-increasing pool of Web 2.0 tools.  Oxnevard even utilizes ThingLinks in her example toolkit demonstrating one of the many ways they can be implemented into the classroom.  Check out this article!

Raising the Bar; Education

Besich, Lauren
Raising the bar; education. (2013, Jun 15). The Economist, 407, 30. Retrieved from 
This article published in The Economist explains in basic terms the relationship between federal and state governments in relation to state standards.  Until the recent adoption of the Common Core State Standards, each state set their own standards that determined student proficiency of Math and English skills, however, if states failed to produced students who didn’t measure up to national standards, they were punished.  In efforts to bridge this gap, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have pushed to implement Common Core State Standards in Math and English.  So far, 45 states have agreed to adopt these “more rigorous” standards, which will ideally streamline the education of students in those states.  The article covers some complaints from both ends of the political spectrum, but the main question still stands:  Will tougher standards produce smarter students?
This article helped me to better understand the reasoning behind the push for Common Core Standards.  The National Centre for Educational statistics (NCES), which is a federal body, saw a discrepancy between what states deem “proficient,” and what states deem “proficient.”  Obviously that is a problem, so the government wants to fix the problem.  As with any government-led initiative to solve a problem, there are critics.  I believe we will only see how well Common Core works after an entire generation of students passes through the education system with these new standards, which is quite a while down the road. 

Online Collaboration Tools

Julia Chambers

Good, R. (2012). Best Online Collaboration Tools. Retrieved from

I came across this website and thought it was a good example of online curation, mapping technology, as well as a great resource for finding online tools:

The author, Robin Good, is a new media publisher based in Rome. He manages the site, but it looks like anyone can send online tools his way for consideration.

The Modern Teacher Librarian

Greene, Shannon


Valenzia, J. (2010). Manifesto for the 21st century teacher librarians. Teacher Librarian – The Journal for School Library Professionals. Retrieved from

An exhaustive list of what librarians should and should not be doing to be leaders of 21st century school libraries. The manifesto details different 21st century applications and considerations in “reading; the information landscape; communication and publishing and storytelling; collection development; facilities; access, equity, and advocacy; audience and collaboration; copyright and information ethics; technology tools; professional development and professionalism; teaching, learning and reference; and explores into the future (while acknowledging the best of the past)”. Also noteworthy is her list of things a librarian should ‘unlearn’, especially her thoughts on libraries traditional focus on being quiet and tidy. An inspiring list that shows the author’s commitment to constant professional development. Her criteria also demonstrates her ongoing exploration of the role of the teacher librarian and how we can advocate for the rights of students to access to technology and tools.

I believe this list could be a useful tool for a teacher librarian to check themselves against periodically. It is both overwhelming (so much to do!) and affirming (so much I’m already doing!) at the same time. This manifesto is useful not only for setting personal goals but also could be helpful in creating professional portfolios and substantiating discussions for technology decisions with administration.


Grant WIggins on Understanding by Design

Besich, Lauren 

AVENUESdoeORG. (2013, February 28). Understanding by design (1 of 2) [Video file]. Retrieved from
AVENUESdoeORG. (2013, March 7). Understanding by design (2 of 2) [Video file]. Retrieved from


These two videos document a presentation given by Grant Wiggins about Understanding by Design.  In a nutshell, Understanding by Design is a planning framework in which you plan your unit with the end goal in mind.  This is also called backward planning.  As teachers plan the unit with the end goal in mind, they can design assessments that measure desired results, and create learning experiences that help students achieve that goal. 
After watching these two videos, I think this is the framework my last school used—I just didn’t know it had a name.  The videos are informative about the Understanding by Design Framework, and Wiggins gives examples that demonstrate how to implement Understanding by Design.  While these videos serve more as an introduction than as a complete training, they do contain applicable tips anyone can implement right away. 

Becoming the Reading Mentors Our Adolescents Deserve: Developing a Successful Sustained Silent Reading Program

By Valerie Lee

 ET-Changing Reading Practices
ET- Differentiation

The main focus of the article was to discuss a study that was conducted on the impact of silent sustained reading on the attitudes and reading practices of a group of high school students. The research was conducted using qualitative method of informal observations, student conferences, and journaling.  The author of the article was the teacher who conducted the study. The article also examines the implications of her findings. Her findings show that there is a proper way to run a SSR program. She gives examples of the best practices to use for a successful SSR. The article also shows that students read more and have a better attitude if they are allowed to choose their own reading material. The author describes SSR and self-selecting as the two most important factors in improving student reading skills and enjoyment. Lee states, “Reading engagement increases when students are given opportunities to choose reading materials” (Lee, 2001).


Lee, V. (2011). Becoming the reading mentors our adolescents deserve: Developing a successful sustained silent reading program. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 55(3), 209-218   doi: 10.1002/JAAL.00026


I chose this article because I am interested in learning if SSR and self selection can improve students’ reading skills and behavior toward reading. I liked that this article was written by a teacher who conducted her own research with her classroom. She discovered that SSR did improve her students’ behavior and she was willing to change her instructional method to the benefit of her students.