Common Core State Standards in the Classroom
Ms. Linda Biondi
Ms. Linda Biondi, currently a fourth grade teacher at Pond Road Middle School in Robbinsville, NJ, has been an educator for thirty-six years. Ms. Biondi is involved in the school learning community in many roles, including serving as the internal coordinator for the Middle States Accreditation process for both Pond Road Middle School and the Robbinsville Public School District. She also is a member of the New Jersey Teacher Advisory Panel, serves as a workshop leader and teacher consultant for the National Writing Project at Rider University, and reviews education books for MiddleWeb.com. Ms. Biondi's mission statement, which she shares with her students and parents, describes her role as an educator to "foster the development of a positive self-esteem and lifelong love of learning" and her desire for "students to feel secure in an environment which encourages children to be creative, to take educational risks, to challenge their potential and be responsible learners."
In 2010, Ms. Biondi co-facilitated a workshop on the Common Core State Standards at Pond Road Middle School where educators participated in an in-depth exploration of the standards. The workshop provided an opportunity for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics teachers to look at the standards through the lens of other subject areas, which she believes led participants to develop a greater appreciation for their colleagues. Through facilitating the workshop, she concluded that the Common Core State Standards belong to everyone and provide what teachers have always wanted to see: an opportunity for teachers to know what students have learned in the previous grade and what students should leave their classroom knowing in order to be prepared for the next grade level.
In her own words…
What excites you as an educator about the Common Core in your classroom?
Soon after the Common Core was adopted in New Jersey, I was asked to co-facilitate a workshop in my district. The more I read about the standards, the more excited I became. I realized the Common Core helps me become a better teacher and provides me with more substantial data to help me differentiate my lessons. I realized the standards leave room for teacher and district input into how they are addressed. I realized that it is not a curriculum and not a cookie-cutter philosophy of teaching. What also excites me is the emphasis on informational text and real-world application. The Common Core is meeting the students where they are and challenging them. I love the emphasis on content literacy, technology integration and higher-order thinking skills.
What has been the impact of the Common Core on your students' learning?
As a New Jersey teacher of thirty-six years, I am able to see the changes that have occurred in education. I have already seen the impact the standards are making in my students' ability to become more analytical thinkers. They are able to engage in "Courageous Conversions", responding to thought-provoking questions by listening to one another and offering their comments directly to each other rather than always through me. They initiate book club conversations and goal-setting. I have shifted my classroom teaching from "teacher asks the questions" to student-initiated discussions. My students are learning workplace readiness skills by listening to each other, engaging in a productive academic conversation which has been built upon each other's ideas, disagreeing respectfully and becoming problem-solvers.
Why do you believe the Common Core better prepares students for the next grade level and ultimately college and careers?
Our society has changed and the way that our students think and learn has changed. After discussions with my colleagues and reflecting on my teaching practices, I realized the instances when my students "got it" were the times that active learning was taking place. The Common Core encourages teachers to address these skills—analyzing, evaluating, communicating, challenging ideas, and looking at different viewpoints, which are the skills colleges and workplaces are looking for. I believe that the Common Core will bridge the gap between high school and college, beginning with text complexity.
How would you explain the importance of the Common Core to one of your students' parents?
As a parent, you need to know that the standards provide a logical sequence of skills for students from K-12. They will provide you with clearer expectations for what your child should be able to know as they move through grade levels. Throughout the United States, students will have the same benchmarks and standards and learn similar content, but the standards give the teacher an opportunity to tailor the instruction to meet your child's needs. The Common Core emphasizes learning across disciplines and critical thinking skills in all subjects.