Common Core State Standards: Not Just Promises to Our Children
"These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of standards based reforms. It is time to recognize that standards are not just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep" (Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Introduction, p. 5).
Back-to-school takes on a new meaning in 2012-2013. Many states will implement the Common Core State Standards. As the quote above mentions, standards are not new in K-12 education. In 1994, Dr. Andrew Porter wrote, "Almost no one believes that standard setting in and of itself will lead to school improvement. Direct efforts at school improvement, such as strengthening the teacher corps and improving curriculum materials, need to follow" (p. 446). It is important to remember that implementing the Common Core State Standards will require ongoing professional development, risk taking, communication, and a mindset of College and Career Readiness for all students. As Dr. Porter wrote in 1994, the implementation of standards will not change teaching and learning in the United States. 2012-2013 marks the beginning of a new generation of standards. Does your school district have an implementation timeline? How will teachers receive ongoing support as they implement new standards? How do you plan to measure the implementation process? What is your district's communication plan for families and stakeholders?
"Educators must decide if they will work together collectively and collaboratively to overcome the inevitable barriers they will confront or if they will simply say the task is too hard and the challenges too great for them to do what they know must be done to support high levels of learning for all students. Will they expend their energy explaining why it cannot be done in their setting, or will they work together to do it" (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, & Karhanek, 2010, p. 206). I wish you and your professional learning team the best as we work together to impact the next generation.
As your school and district staff begin the implementation process, you may benefit from the following resources.
Developing a Common Core Vision
Learning Forward (as published in Education Week)
The standards are not a vision; they define outcomes. When districts and state departments of education take the time to envision what successful standards implementation looks like, it gives them a resource to measure progress, guide actions, and stay on course.
Common Core for School Leaders
Michael Fisher and Steven Weber
School leaders must create a schedule which allows for continuous improvement, rather than hoping teachers will meet before and after school. The schedule that school administrators create reflects a matter of priorities and curriculum development should be a priority.
How Will You Prepare to Make Shift Happen in 2012-2013?
As districts begin implementing the Common Core State Standards, district leaders need to develop processes and short term wins. It is easier to make shifts happen when all stakeholders can see the Big Picture.
Curriculum Developers should ask these questions in order to create a purposeful curriculum.
Learning Targets: Classroom teachers should have a great amount of flexibility when it comes to 'how' to teach key concepts and skills, but 'what' to teach should be clearly defined by the team. It is unethical to allow some students to 'end up someplace else.'
The Fear of Failure
Failure is part of the learning process. If K-12 schools are going to make the instructional shifts required by the Common Core State Standards, then failure will be part of the implementation process.
What Are Your Three Circles?
Do educators in your school have a Hedgehog Concept? (Jim Collins) The Three Circles activity may indicate that there are numerous programs and initiatives among buildings in a school district, but many of the initiatives seem to be in conflict with each other.
Standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but they help teachers figure out the knowledge and skills their students should have so that teachers can build the best lessons and environments for their classrooms. Standards also help students and parents by setting clear and realistic goals for success. Standards are a first step – a key building block – in providing our young people with a high-quality education that will prepare them for success in college and work. Of course, standards are not the only thing that is needed for our children’s success, but they provide an accessible roadmap for our teachers, parents, and students.