Even the most brilliant piece of education reform would be irrelevant unless it is properly implemented. In fact, improper implementation can even have a detrimental effect. That is why it is crucial that as states and districts roll out the Common Core Standards, that they do so carefully and thoughtfully in order to maximize the opportunity that it can potentially bring. This means deliberate examination of 1) Sequence, 2) Pace, and 3) Support Resources.
Sequence: In order for standards and learning goals to have true impact, they must be aligned with instruction and assessment. Districts must intentionally structure appropriate sequencing of professional development to help teachers examine how the common standards differ from current state standards, how to align curriculum with the new standards, and why it is beneficial to do so.
One of the ways my English department is trying to reconcile multiple standards is through examining the rubrics for the SAT, AP Test, and state exit exam, and cross referencing them with the common standards. We pulled out common language from each and developed a rubric that fell into the four categories of ideas, evidence, analysis, and style. This enabled us to create something tangible that aligns with skills that students need to know, and is usable in the classroom.
Pace: The pace of implementation can have a direct impact on teacher investment in the Standards. There needs to be early wins that show the advantages to using the common standards. Teachers need to be given time to plan and a period of time to transition curriculum. In light of all the other teacher duties, this needs to be structured into existing meeting time.
Support Resources:The common standards cannot be seen as a one-time implementation event, but must be used as a recurring opportunity to examine what we teach, how we teach, and what students need to know how to do. Thus, teachers will need professional development time to work on aligning and creating curriculum with the new standards and continually revisiting connections between goals, instruction, and assessment. Available instructional units that use the common standards will be helpful as models, as well as available lists of books and professional development opportunities.
Current shifts in education offer unprecedented opportunities to transform education. But change must be done so thoughtfully, sequentially, at an appropriate pace, and with sufficient resources to meet needs. The creation of the Common Core Standards Initiative has the potential to offer a robust shift in what we teach, how we teach, and at what standard we expect from students. But only if states, districts, and schools properly implement the standards so that they are usable, rather than just something that hangs on the classroom wall.
Linda Yaron is an English teacher in an inner-city high school in Los Angeles. Last school year, she was a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education. She is currently taking part in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program.
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