Maruca: What higher standards mean for the students in my classroom - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Maruca: What higher standards mean for the students in my classroom

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Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 12:00 pm

The implementation of Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards is making a difference in student success beyond the classroom. Using these standards, learners are required to think more critically and become more involved in justifying their responses when answering higher-level questions. I am spending less time lecturing and more time teaching critical thinking skills so that my students have the ability to discover the correct answer, but can also explain the process that they took to work through the problem. Students take a more active role by acquiring ownership of their learning. This builds self-confidence and allows for higher levels of success.

How is this possible? Students are learning to set goals based on their current assessment data and are challenging themselves to exceed these goals. Math instruction is no longer focused on rote memorization and the recall of facts. We use problems that may arise in everyday life. After meaningful student conversation about each problem, my students discover that there are multiple ways to find the solutions. Students ask questions for clarification and prove their arguments by explaining their work with facts.

Students are also exposed to challenging literature, informational text and poetry. All readings have a purpose, whether it’s identifying the main idea, details or determining the theme; students always support answers with evidence from the text. I teach them close reading, which means that they actually read while using a pencil to write their thoughts and feelings about the text. This process includes circling important words or phrases and underlining the parts of the text they need to reread for clarification. Students are asked higher-level questions that require them to understand the author’s purpose and require them to infer the meaning of each passage.

I have discovered through assessment that individualizing instruction using the new standards has collectively shown a higher level of success for all of my students than I noticed when I utilizing the previous state standards.

Overall, I’m excited about the progress that my students are making and am grateful to now be able to give my students more opportunities to learn in new ways.

To learn more about the standards, visit ArizonaAimsHigher.org.

Nathan Maruca is a 5th grade teacher who is implementing Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards into his classroom at Aguilar Elementary School in the Tempe Elementary District. He has approximately 11 years of experience in education and currently serves as a member of his school’s leadership team and incident command team, and as a professional learning community teacher leader. He was named a 2014 Rodel Exemplary Teacher in December and will be asked to mentor future teachers.

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