CCRS Express

Madison County Schools

Writing and the College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS)

The College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) give a lot of attention to writing. The reason for this area of focus is clear. According to David Conley (2007), "If we could institute only one change to make students more college ready, it should be to increase the amount and quality of writing students are expected to produce." Researchers from Vanderbilt University (Graham & Hebert, 2010) support Conley's decree. They conducted a meta-analysis of more than 100 studies on writing in the classroom and found that asking students to write regularly about the texts they read in science, social studies, and language arts has a significant and positive influence on student comprehension. The referenced research provides insight on why the Writing CCRS Anchor Standards include a mode of writing that is not typically embedded in other state standards: argumentative (W.CCR.1). Since survey results from university faculty members and employers indicate it is crucial for students to use sound logic and demonstrate ability in responding to varied perspectives, the argumentative mode of writing is powerful because it forces writers to think critically and consider multiple viewpoints.

An examination of our school district's ACT Aspire Assessment results, from the spring 2014 administration, for students in grades 3-8, revealed that writing is a subject area in need of improvement. Although ACT developed a writing rubric for the referenced assessment, annotated writing samples have not been disseminated. Therefore, it may prove beneficial for teachers and/or administrators to review the annotated samples of student writing at (also shown at bottom of paragraph). The referenced website provides sample writing for each grade level that meets or exceeds the minimum level of proficiency demanded by the CCRS. Student writing samples are also provided for each grade level across all three of the text types required by the standards: argument, informational/expository, and narrative. The annotations explain how a sample meets the requirements of the grade-level standards. Mr. Scott Weeks also located other websites that will be advantageous for teachers to review. Thanks, Mr. Weeks! They are listed below:

Upcoming Workshops

Professional development opportunities continue to occur across the country. Administrators and/or teachers should make note of the upcoming educational conferences that support effective implementation of the College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS):

  • NCTM Institute - February 6 - 7, 2015; Charleston, SC; Effective Teaching with Principles to Actions: Implementing the College and Career Ready Standards

  • National Conference on Common Core Instruction - February 21 - 22, 2015; Las Vegas, Nevada; Key Topics Include: Assessment Practices that Drive Instruction, Instructional Implications of the New Assessments, and much more!

Schools and District Share 1st Semester Happenings that Assist with CCRS Implementation

CCRS Websites Every Teacher Should Explore!

Teachers of ALL grade levels and/or content areas should make sure they explore the Madison County Schools' College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) and Alabama State Department of Education's (ALSDE) CCRS websites. The school district's CCRS website has direct links to the ALSDE CCRS website (ALEX), The Alabama Insight Tool, online resources (Symbaloo), and a myriad of other instructional tools! To access the referenced website, simply go to

The ALSDE's CCRS website (ALEX) also contains a wide variety of resources that include teacher videos, games, lesson plan activities, high-impact strategies, and more! Additionally, handouts from each CCRS Implementation Team meeting can be accessed from the Resources tab. Simply go to to access the referenced site.

Seven Myths About Rigor

During a recent College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) Implementation Team meeting, Mr. Solley asked members to discuss what was still needed in schools to ensure full-fledged implementation of the CCRS. The comments generated from the discussion were intuitive. "I believe some of the teachers are not really clear about what rigor means," responded one team member. "There is a misconception that a rigorous lessons means teaching a 4th grade lesson to 3rd graders," she further elaborated. The viewpoint cited was very astute. The CCRS reinforce the need for increased rigor in lessons. So, it is important that instructors realize that rigor is simply creating an environment in which each student is expected and supported to learn at high levels. It is also crucial they are aware of the seven myths about rigor, as defined by Blackburn (2011).

Myth One: Lots of homework is a sign of rigor.

For many people the best indicator of rigor is the amount of homework required of students. Realistically, all homework is not equally useful. Some of it is just busywork, assigned by teachers because principals or parents expect it.

Myth Two: Rigor means doing more.

"Doing more" often means doing more low-level activities, frequently repetitions of things already learned. Such narrow and rigid approaches to learning do not define a rigorous classroom. Ultimately, it is the quality of the assignment that makes a difference in terms of rigor.

Myth Three: Rigor is not for everyone.

Often, teachers think the only way to assure success for everyone is to lower standards and lessen rigor. This may mask a hidden belief that some students can't really learn at high levels. However, every student can complete rigorous work at high levels, whether they are advanced or a student with special needs.

Myth Four: Providing support means lessening rigor.

Supporting students so that they can learn at high levels is central to the definition of rigor. As teachers design lessons moving students toward more challenging work, they must provide scaffolding to support them as they learn.

Myth Five: Resources equal rigor.

The right resources can certainly help increase the rigor in classrooms. However, raising the level of rigor for students is not dependent on the resources instructors have in the classroom. For instance, students can use a worksheet to rewrite all false answers into true statements. This simple activity requires students to demonstrate understanding. It's not the resources; it's how you use them that make a difference.

Myth Six: Standards alone take care of rigor.

Standards alone, even if they are rigorous, do not guarantee rigor in the classroom. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are designed to increase the level of rigor in the classrooms across the nation. However, if implemented without high levels of questioning or applications, the standards themselves are weakened.

Myth Seven: Rigor is just one more thing to do.

Rigor is not another thing to add to your plate. Instead, rigor is increasing the level of expectation of what you are already doing. For example, if you are teaching vocabulary, instead of asking students to write their own definition of the word, ask them to write a riddle. It's the same end result, but at higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

District's CCRS Implementation Team

The Madison County School System developed a new College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) Implementation Team for the 2014-2015 school year. As in previous years, the CCRS Implementation Team's primary duties are to attend quarterly CCRS workshops that are facilitated by the Alabama State Department of Education. Members of the referenced group are asked to present the information to the instructional leaders of each school during regularly scheduled Assistant Principals' (AP) Meetings. After participating in the referenced hands-on sessions, APs are responsible for 'turning around' the strategies/information they learn to their faculty. The CCRS Implementation Team members for our district are listed:


  • Lorraine Boone
  • Tim Solley
  • Mary Stump
  • Nancy Curry
  • Karen Jensen
  • Vickey Sullivan
  • Janet Slaughter


  • Kim Gulledge
  • Leanne Helums
  • Sharon Walker
  • Sara Harris
  • Shannon Pitts
  • Ryan Dennis


  • Melanie Cullen
  • Dawn Kirby
  • Lora Snell
  • Linda Arredondo
  • Mary Hughes
  • Jessica Aguire-Cantrell
  • Amanda Skelton


  • Keri Glass
  • Scott McMickin
  • Whitney Boggus
  • Deanna Sanders
  • Brenda Lewis
  • Melissa Mann
  • Holly Whitt