Editor’s note: This article is part of the series The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom that provides in-depth reviews of several promising digital tools for English language arts classrooms.
Educators’ experiences with the Common Core State Standards vary depending on the state and district in which they teach. Some have ready access to solid resources and valuable support, while other teachers struggle to understand the new standards, the instructional shifts they encourage, and how to effectively implement them in their classrooms.
Achieve the Core is a website that provides educators everywhere with a myriad of resources to help implement the Common Core. The professional-development modules, classroom lessons, planning tools, student-writing samples, mathematics tasks, and assessments are exceptionally well designed and available at no cost. It is one-stop shopping for all things Common Core.
Achieve the Core offers “free, ready-to-use classroom resources designed to help educators understand and implement the Common Core and other college- and career-ready standards.” It is hosted by Student Achievement Partners, which is a nonprofit founded by the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
All lessons on Achieve the Core are CCSS-aligned and specifically designed to help teachers understand and effectively implement these ambitious new standards.
The site has three parts: professional learning, planning and reflection, and classroom resources. Each contains a wealth of information and resources, briefly detailed below. This post outlines what is available on the site; my next post drills down into the text sets you can find there.
Achieve the Core is well organized. Though its sheer number of resources can be overwhelming at first, once familiar with it, the site is easy to navigate. It can be accessed via multiple digital platforms and browsers (Safari, Chrome, and Firefox) and is accessible on an iPad.
As of July 2016, more than 16.4 million resources had been downloaded from the site.
The professional-learning category is split into two sections: insight and collaboration.
Under insight, teachers can learn about the Common Core’s expectations and its “instructional shifts” through documents, videos, and professional-development modules. An Aligned Instructional Materials blog “covers the latest trends in the field, highlights free Common Core–aligned OER materials, and offers tools to help with important instructional materials decisions.”
The collaboration section consists of professional-development modules, a Common Core Knowledge and Practice survey, and information on talking with parents about the Common Core. The survey tool encourages educators and schools “to reflect on their instructional practice and understanding of the Common Core State Standards.” The site also offers resources, including parent guides, videos, and presentations to help parents understand the Common Core and support the standards at home.
Planning and reflection
The planning and reflection section provides teachers with information and tools to help support CCSS-aligned instruction and is broken into instructional practice and instructional content.
Under the former heading, teachers can find a coaching tool, a lesson-planning tool, and Teaching the Core videos. These can all be used separately, but they were designed to be used together to help teachers create CCSS-aligned lessons. The videos provide teachers with models of such lessons, annotated to call attention to specific features and accompanied by examples of student work and an interview with the featured teacher.
The instructional content section includes resources on text complexity, text-dependent questions for English language arts (ELA), and an overview of math foci by grade level. There are also alignment rubrics, which help teachers judge whether lessons, textbooks, and assessments are aligned to the CCSS.
One of the most useful aspects of Achieve the Core is its ELA/literacy and math classroom resources. Although this blog series focuses on ELA resources, the mathematics section furnishes classroom lessons, tasks that highlight the CCSS instructional shifts, mini-assessments, and a coherence map that focuses on the connections among the standards. Under ELA/literacy, teachers can find K–12 lessons, student-writing samples, assessments, and an academic-word-finder tool, which helps teachers to identify tier-two academic vocabulary (words that are “often vital to comprehension, will reappear in many texts, and are frequently part of word families or semantic networks”). An especially useful feature is that teachers can save classroom resources and lesson plans for either subject to their own account for future use.
As of summer 2016, over six hundred teacher-developed K–12 CCSS-aligned classroom lessons were available on Achieve the Core. Though the volume is huge, lessons can easily be filtered by grade level and project category (such as close reading and read-aloud lessons).
The resources are varied and high quality. An especially valuable component of Achieve the Core’s ELA resources is its text sets. In my next post, I will explore this instructional tool in detail.
Shannon Garrison is a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in California with two decades of teaching experience. She holds a National Board Certification, serves on the National Assessment Governing Board, and was also recently selected as a Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.