Education Opinion

Teacher Leadership and Implementing the Common Core Standards

By Patrick Ledesma — February 12, 2012 3 min read
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Marsha Ratzel is a National Board Certified Teacher who teaches middle school math and science in Kansas. Her blog, Reflections of a Techie, focuses on technology integration in the classroom.

Last month at the Center for Teaching Quality, I had the opportunity to meet with Marsha and the 22 NBCTs from North Carolina and Kentucky who are piloting curriculum tools to support the Common Core Standards. As with any movement that brings change to the classroom, there are opportunities and challenges for teacher leadership.

Marsha’s discusses her thoughts on teacher leadership and the Common Core in this week’s guest post.

Why Teachers Need to Take Ownership of Implementing the Common Core

How schools will go about implementing Common Core Standards is a huge topic within education today. Stephanie Hirsh has written an impassioned discussion of what will be required of our school communities in order to move forward. It made me stop and think.

Teacher leaders will be critical to the successful implementation of Common Core Standards (CCS). Sounds like a no-brainer, but teacher leaders are most often the missing piece of education reform. Effective teamwork and sustainable implementation of such a large change depends on teachers leading the effort forward and co-designing professional development.

I’ve been lucky to work with an amazing set of 22 NBCTs from North Carolina and Kentucky that who have spent the last six months piloting curriculum tools developed by the Math Design Collaborative (MDC) and the Literacy Design Collaboartive (LDC) at the Center for Teaching Quality. It makes so much sense to capitalize on all the knowledge these teachers have gained from their working with the MDC and the LDC in a real classroom situation.

Alignment between states, districts, and teachers depends on teacher leaders. Even the Department of Education blog acknowledges that this implementation needs to be different: “Neither students nor teachers are served by a structure that treats some teachers like interchangeable cogs in a machine. We long to lead our own profession because when we drive our craft, we will see huge shifts in the responsibility, leadership, pay and respect.”

As states begin to blend CCS with their own standards, district administration may be ready to move ahead without teacher input. They realize teachers have no choice in whether to implement. But the choice isn’t to implement or not to implement; the choice is in how to implement. With a strong base of teacher leaders in place and leading the effort, other teachers will find inspiration and success.

Time and again, top-down implementation stalls as teachers fail to hear workable plans that reflect the realities of their classrooms. One must only look as far as the top-down force-feeding of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to see how negative side effects may outweigh any benefits. Ask any teacher how she felt about the implementation of NCLB and you’re likely to get an earful about how things could and should have been done better.

With the implementation of CSS, educators and administrators have a chance to find a better model for rolling out widespread change. According to the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, more than 90 percent of teachers believe that other teachers contribute to their success.Teacher leaders can help build a climate that draws on their colleagues’ expertise and wisdom to improve the CSS implementation. Teacher-designed and teacher-defined professional development is the other critical element in aligning CCS.

Critical to a successful launch of CSS in schools is establishing credibility for that change. Teachers are often wary of anything they had no part in creating. This attitude is even more pronounced toward CSS, since the standards come from a political movement started by governors to “fix” education.

There is no force that is more adaptable, nimble, or capable of calling to action every one of the 3.2 million classroom teachers than genuine teacher leaders. These are leaders who work in classrooms every day. They have lived through NCLB and can apply the best and worst of that initiative. They have the respect of their peers, and can therefore call into action the legions of teachers who simply want to make tomorrow better for their 49.4 million students.

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The opinions expressed in Leading From the Classroom are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.