The charge to the teachers and administrators from eight school districts seemed simple enough: Create an activity, called a performance assessment task, that would show, when solved, that students understand a unit covering Common Core standards that California and 45 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted. Really understand, not by simply choosing a multiple-choice answer, but by explaining or illustrating in multiple ways the depth of their knowledge.
The exercise, done in teams of six or so, divided by grade and subject, over 2½ days in Berkeley last month, was difficult, sometimes exasperating but also enlightening.
For many, it offered a revelation: Replacing the California state standards in math and English language arts with Common Core will require not merely learning new standards but also adopting a new mindset and approach to teaching essential concepts in depth. For some teachers, there will be the stark realization that they don’t have the content knowledge of math that Common Core demands. For districts and teachers for whom Common Core remains an abstraction or a headache to be dealt with later, that news will come as a shock.