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Looking beyond the grade level
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2014 10:14 AM

The Common Core State Standards outline educational benchmarks by grade level. Every year, students face a new set of goals in English/language arts and math. Most elementary school teachers only work in a single grade level so they can focus on one set of Standards. However, knowing what their students learned before and what they will do after the class is important, as these factors can inform the way educators teach. 

Understanding coherence
The Common Core mentions coherence in its sections on key shifts. Coherence is the idea of linking concepts across grade levels. For instance, students learn geometry throughout their K-12 experience, but every year, they learn a different part of it. Drawing a line through all those geometric concepts helps students see the big picture and understand the subject in greater depth. 

Not only is coherence a nice idea the Common Core puts forth, but it's actually built into the Standards. Every grade level is a progression from the former grade and toward the next one. Students should feel they naturally move from one year to another with the background knowledge they need. However, it's easy for teachers not to feel or teach to this flow. They are, after all, assigned to a grade and usually stay there. 

Expanding focus
To help students better connect the things they learn throughout their education, teachers can link topics to those learned in previous years. According to Education Week, many educators are already doing this. In Kent County, Maryland, math teachers meet once a month to go over Common Core benchmarks. Those involved come from a variety of grade levels and share their experience with their peers. From discussing the Common Core itself to swapping teaching strategies, these educators are helping one another live up to the Standards' goal of building coherence in education. Teachers participating in the Kent County meetings follow the notion that the Common Core is a text designed to be analyzed in a group setting. 

"What I've been recommending is that people form book clubs or study groups and read those progressions together," Phil Daro, lead writer of the Common Standards for math, told the source. "They're not written to be read while sipping a cup of tea. They're written to be studied, and you don't study alone."

By working together, teachers of the Common Core can develop a sense of the academic progression their students will experience.