Professional Development Opinion

Beware of Fragmentation in Educator Effectiveness and Common Core Implementation

By Learning Forward — November 25, 2013 3 min read
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Joellen Killion

A recent report by the Center for Great Teachers and Leaders calls for deeper integration of educator effectiveness, Common Core standards, and professional learning. States and districts have exerted tremendous effort and expended extraordinary resources on implementing educator effectiveness systems and Common Core standards. The two reform efforts, though, have been taking parallel tracks -- one typically developed by a team of human capital specialists and the other by curriculum and instruction specialists. Too often, the decisions of one team have neglected to integrate or even consider the other. Educator effectiveness systems for teachers, for example, have focused on general teaching practices applicable to all disciplines without attention to the content-specific pedagogy needed to realize deep implementation of Common Core standards.

At the same time, the professional learning supporting these two reform efforts has focused separately on either implementation of educator effectiveness or on Common Core. Principal professional learning, for example, has focused on the mechanics of the evaluation system rather than on the instructional practices aligned to the Common Core; while teacher professional learning on the Common Core too infrequently integrates educator effectiveness components of continuous improvement, content depth, content-specific pedagogy, and goals for educator and student learning.

One explanation for this lack of unity may be the speed with which the change is taking place. Each reform alone is substantial; together they require significant effort. Some states and districts have benefited from integration grants that supported collaborative development and implementation of both the educator effectiveness system and Common Core; others, though, driven by pressure to achieve the best possible outcome, have employed separate teams working independently of one another to accomplish the required planning, development, and implementation within established timeframes for meeting accountability mandates.

Another reason for the fragmentation may be the singular attention on the interim outcomes of implementation of the effectiveness system or Common Core standards and not enough on student success. Visible evidence of this shortsightedness is clear in policies and programs, such as educator relicensure, student standards, professional learning, and educator evaluation, that are separated from each other in siloes without meaningful relationship to one another.

As the novelty of Common Core standards and educator effectiveness wears off and early-stage implementation is visible, some may be too willing to count completion and implementation as markers of success. Yet there is a long road ahead before celebration is justified. New assessments, soon to be a part of the mix of educational reforms, are likely to drive states and districts to revisit their current work and redouble their efforts to integrate their Common Core, educator effectiveness, and professional learning policies and practices into a unified whole that firmly establishes the success of every student, not implementation, as the ultimate goal.

States and districts have a window of opportunity now in early stage implementation to determine how to weave together their educator effectiveness systems, Common Core implementation, and professional learning practices and policies into a unified, holistic system focused on student success. Working across departments and in partnership with school-based personnel, state and district leaders must proactively and purposively integrate the parallel efforts into a tapestry of comprehensive support for student success.

Joellen Killion
Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

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