All Hands on Deck: Activating the Common Core

The Common Core is far from business-as-usual for our nation’s educators, which means we’ll need more than traditional strategies to implement these standards on the ground.

While the Common Core still remains on the drawing board in most states and districts, teachers across the country are taking the initiative to make the new standards a reality. From New York City to San Francisco, California, teachers are working to enable more complex learning shifts aligned to the Common Core. Some are already selecting those lesson plans and curricula that support a new way of teaching and learning. Others are having conversations during common planning periods, in classrooms after school, and online with other education leaders.

These conversations are essential to making the Common Core a reality at the classroom level, as opposed to just a new-fangled policy imperative. The likelihood is high that implementation plans based on traditional blue-ribbon panels and conference-room seminars will fall flat. Instead, we need to introduce models that bring together implementers and experimenters as well as policymakers and content experts if we hope to engage in productive conversations about the Common Core. In other words, it will take teachers, policymakers, publishers, and other stakeholders working together to bring about effective implementation in our nation’s classrooms.

A group of national organizations representing a cross-section of key stakeholders — including Learning Forward, New Teacher Center, College Summit, The Education Trust, New Leaders, Center for Teaching Quality, and ISKME — have worked systematically to inform and strengthen each other’s work around shared goals related to the Common Core. We have attended each other’s conferences and meetings, focused on common crucial challenges, and are working together to design tangible and innovative strategies around Common Core implementation.

The goal of this blog series over the next several weeks is to share these support strategies for implementing the Common Core State Standards. These strategies include, for example, establishing mentorship programs for teachers, leveraging existing resources to support low-cost professional learning around the Common Core, and providing new tools that will not only help educators reinvent teaching, but that will also help counselors, parents, and students participate fully in the shifts that will take place through the new standards.

Several of the blogs in this series will stress the importance of giving teachers the support they need to implement the changes. As New Leaders has found, principals play a critical role in finding Common Core champions within their schools and thereby expediting the transition to the new standards. Also, districts can support new teachers with mentorship throughout the implementation process. For example, New Teacher Center has connected experienced teachers with novice teachers in order to build a common culture around the Common Core and ensure successful implementation.

New tools that help educators reinvent teaching are key to ensuring that teacher education and professional development go above and beyond content providers simply labeling their products “Common Core Ready.” Educators need effective tools, simulations, and benchmarking assessments, as well as new classroom practices, to help students dig deep. The blog series will discuss one such tool—a rubric offered by ISKME’s OER Commons site, developed in partnership with Achieve. The rubric is being used by teachers across the country to align new and existing resources to Common Core indicators—thereby easing the transition.

The series will also discuss how school districts can create cost-cutting strategies for implementing professional learning around the Common Core by collaborating with one another and sharing resources and guidance from early implementers. For example, it will describe how six states in Learning Forward’s Transforming Professional Learning project are identifying and exchanging effective Common Core-aligned resources for immediate use in the classroom. The series will also point to how educators can leverage Title I and Program Improvement funds to create new instructional materials, or use open educational resources as free, high-quality materials aligned with the Common Core.

The blog series kicks off with a discussion of ways to engage parents and students in Common Core implementation. As College Summit will illustrate, teachers and principals can inform parents through meetings and workshops about the Common Core and how it will affect students. And The Education Trust will examine how counselors, though often overlooked in implementation processes, can play a critical role in a student’s success with the new standards, for example, by helping students connect the Common Core to college and career readiness.

We invite you to follow along with this Common Core series as our stakeholders bring their different perspectives, strategies, and lessons learned thus far to address issues in Common Core implementation. We would also like to thank Rick Love at MetLife Foundation for instigating and supporting this work. I am personally excited about this blog series because its participants are pioneering a new path to benefit the education world at large. I hope you will join us in this dialogue.

July 02, 2013