Recommendations for initial professional development on the Common Core

Here is the draft report of the policy workshop Gearing Up for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics, held at the Westward Look resort in Tucson, Arizona on 1–2 April 2011. The workshop convened representatives from state departments of education and school districts, the K–12 community, mathematicians, mathematics educators, professional development deliverers, and policy organizations to develop recommendations for the initial domains of professional development on the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. [Link updated 5/11]

About Bill McCallum

I was born in Australia and came to the United States to pursue a Ph. D. in mathematics at Harvard University, met my wife, and never went back. I am a professor at the University of Arizona, working in number theory and mathematics education.
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9 Responses to Recommendations for initial professional development on the Common Core

  1. Rosann Hollinger says:

    Do you know of a state/district that has unpacked the Gr 8 stds in response to “instructional practices” and “what students should be able to do”?

  2. I don’t know personally of a district that has done this sort of work on Grade 8, but some readers of the blog might know.

  3. Cassyt says:

    North Carolina has done some 8th grade “unpacking” of their new standards, which should be pretty close: Unpacking Standards – Math

  4. Michele says:

    I’d like to better understand the perspective of the committee that selected these particular topics as the initial starting place for professional development. How are they envisioning and defining professional development (i.e., professional learning communities, workshops, K-5 vs. K-6 vs. K-8 groups)? What research or data was used to select the topics? In particular, I’d like to understand further the reason for a focus on Geometry in 8th grade.
    Thanks.

  5. It’s important to keep in mind the limited goals of this workshop: to find a short list of the content areas most urgently in need of professional development. To quote the introduction:

    These domains were chosen either because they are foundational to what comes later, or because they contain an approach that is likely to be novel for teachers. They do not represent “priority standards” in the curriculum. Indeed, since the standards describe a coherent structure to which all parts contribute, the isolation of “priority standards” is not recommended. Rather, they are recommended starting points for professional development to implement the Common Core.

    It was not within the scope of the conference to make recommendations about how professional development should be delivered. The specific rational for choosing Geometry in Grade 8 is given in the section “Why this is a target for professional development” in Geometry:

    Geometry in the Common Core State Standards is based on transformations, an approach that is significantly different from previous state standards. This is a change for students, teachers, and teachers of teachers. Challenges include attention to precision and language about transformations.

  6. Michele says:

    I appreciate the response and had read all the background in the document regarding the topic selection. I was hoping there was additional background on the selection of the topics because the choices didn’t make sense to me from a continuity of topics and an actual implementation perspective. I’m concerned states and districts may use this document to guide their professional development choices without thorough analysis of whether the topics are appropriate for their teachers and professional development situation. I appreciate the efforts of the committee and your time in responding and hope additional clarifying information will be available in the future. Thanks.

  7. Sandi Campie says:

    We agree with the recommendation for Ratio and Proportion professional development. We have just completed four days of training and corrected many misconceptions and provided content that was needed.

    We are working with middle school teachers on Number System next and trying to determine the goal of this standard:

    7NS 2 B– Convert a rational number to a decimal using long division; know that the decimal form of a rational number terminates in 0s or eventually repeats.

    We wonder if the emphasis is on the definition of rational numbers when converted to a decimal or on the process of long division. Is the intent to have students divide with paper pencil?
    Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in Iowa

    • Rational numbers are defined in the standards as positive or negative fractions, i.e., numbers of the form p/q or -(p/q), where p and q are whole numbers (and q is not zero). The fact that rational numbers can be expressed as terminating or repeating decimals is important, but it is really a theorem about rational numbers, not a definition. Understanding the process of converting fractions to decimals using the long division algorithm is an important step towards understanding why this fact is true, although the standard does not call for students to be able to give a complete explanation of the fact. Rather, it sets them on that path by giving them hands on experience with making conversions, including seeing examples where the algorithm leads to a repeating cycle of steps that give the repeating digits of the expansion. Certainly paper and pencil calculation is indicated here, although it is not necessary to give complicated examples in order to illustrate the process. Examples with single digit denominators such as 3/5 or 22/7 do this well enough.