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The CityU Approach to Common Core
Although often times obscured by misinformation, Common Core has made headlines recently for causing tension among teachers, administrators and parents, while also running the political gamut. Veteran teachers will tell you Common Core is just the latest example of standards that shape K-12 instruction – like the many initiatives that came before it – but they also acknowledge these standards present a new set of hurdles.
Common Core undoubtedly poses a challenge for teachers and school districts. Its structure holds all students of the same grade level to the same standard, and sets an overall classroom pace that can be demanding, both for teachers and students. This combination requires teachers to consider each student’s strengths during instruction, to ensure the classroom as a whole is moving forward.
Building on its history of implementing innovative solutions, City University of Seattle prepares education students for challenges like those posed by Common Core through relevant and current instruction techniques and strategies. Dr. Craig Schieber, Dean of CityU’s School of Education, explained the key is relevance. CityU’s education faculty consists mostly of current practitioners and recently retired teachers who bring real-world experience to their courses.
“Our students experience exactly what they’ll have to do in the classroom,” said Sue Seiber, Director of Teacher Certification Programs.
Relevance is also an important part of CityU’s programming. The average age of a CityU student is 35 and he or she typically takes advantage of online or mixed mode courses to fit around personal schedules.
Through cohort groups led by practitioners with years of field experience, our school of education students focus on coursework that directly applies to future classroom situations. At CityU, students are trained to think like a teacher, but also consider their lesson plans and assignments from a kid’s perspective.
“We give our students the largest tool-belt we can to accommodate all different learners,” Craig said.
Knowing how to tailor instruction based on students’ needs will ultimately help teachers meet standards like Common Core.
“With every assignment we give our students, we also explain the associated standards they’ll have to meet,” Sue said. “We’re teaching them to be able to connect with their students. If you have 25 kids in a room, you might have to try 20 different ways.”
This approach is grounded in a strengths-based model. Our CityU faculty demonstrates how to focus on kids’ strengths as a means to achieving a greater goal. This technique, unlike a deficit model, uses students’ achievements as a jumping-off point to make headway in other areas.
“This approach honors everything a child brings to the table and helps them move forward,” Sue said.
Part of the aim of Common Core is to encourage critical thinking and project-based learning in public schools. CityU’s education curriculum caters to these areas by placing an emphasis on technology and the 21st century classroom. Students in our education program learn to work with SMART boards, flip their classroom, and even learn how to turn kids’ cell phones into instruments of learning. Our faculty also host workshops throughout the year to inform students and area teachers about the changing face of education.
Delivering relevant coursework that stresses project- and strengths-based learning has proven to be an effective approach for CityU. Last year 80 percent of CityU’s School of Education graduates found employment, and the school was recognized as a top producer of educators in Washington.
The program’s success is due to its foundation of innovative practitioners and thought-leaders who are changing the trajectory of the traditional model of education. In celebration of those individuals, CityU has created the Washington Educators Innovative Network (WEIN) to bring together educators who do things differently, and foster collaboration in an effort to initiate change, school by school.
“We want to empower teachers to think for themselves, and ultimately pass that on to their students,” Craig said.
More information about CityU’s Albright School of Education is available here.