Buyers Beware

Post By Gregory A. Firn, Ed.D
Deputy Superintendent of Academics
Grand Prairie Independent School District
Grand Prairie, TX

      I have yet to experience a day that I donít receive an email, text, Linkedin, Facebook, or other social media "hit" with answers, solutions, resources, or others related to Common Core.

Enough already!

Akin to the advent of No Child Left Behind, the K12 space is inundated with marketing to lure those who believe that finally there is an "answer" to failed learning as well as the failure to learn. As was the case then as is the case now, there simply is not a quick or easy answer to the difficult and challenging work of educating each student to high standards.

So whatís the deal?

Having recently left North Carolina, where I served as Superintendent for over five years, and a state that moved "all in" with respect to implementation of Core, to Texas that has its own version of new, more demanding, challenging, and yes, "rigorous" standards, the challenges are similar.

My experience in North Carolina in preparation of the Core was steeped in preparing staff for instructional transformation, not so much learning about new standards. Herein lies a fundamental understanding about the new standards. That is, from my perspective, the essence or new standards is all about instruction.

What the Core is not, and can not be about, is rushing out to make purchases on additional curriculum that are advertised to achieve the Core or any subsets of the new standards. Schools and school systems are actually positioned to use, or in this case, reuse or repurpose existing resources (instructional materials including textbooks) with Core.

Huh?

The charge, our charge, first and foremost is about mastery of essential skills. No longer is proficiency the standard. Our students, yours and mine, will never achieve the "best hopes" of Core if proficiency is allowed to continue as the goal. Therefore, the greatest challenge is, as stated before, mastery of the essential skills. The Core expects and requires students to apply skills, knowledge, and experiences to explore, enhance, create, and produce at a higher, more robust level. To do so necessitates a transformation of instruction. It also requires rethinking and therefore utilizing technology-based supplemental instructional programming.

One of the tools we implemented to assist with instructional capacity and transformation was Kurzweil 3000-firefly . If you are unfamiliar with Kurzweil 3000-firefly — take a look. It is one of the most powerful tools available to achieve mastery of essential skills and beyond. The productís unique technology allows teachers to use existing text to drive enduring skill development in literacy across content and subject areas. The writing and note taking capabilities are equally impressive and with great import and utility. Lastly, from my perspective, Kurzweil 3000-firefly is not only affordable but is without competition in all manner of functionality and performance — you just have to experience it.

So, buyers beware of companies, products, and services promising to align with "Core" or will provide solutions for Core alignment, etc. Kurzweil 3000-firefly will not make that claim — they donít have to. Rather, Kurzweil has been and will continue to be a tool to assist with mastery. Isnít that what we want for each learner?

 

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