The Common Core State Standards are likely the biggest area of concern for teachers and school leader at this time and with good reason. These standards have the ability to fundamentally change student learning expectations throughout most of the United States.
For the next few Mondays I’ll be sharing my notes from Navigating Implementation of the Common Core State Standards by Reeves, Wiggs, Lassiter, Piercy, Ventura, and Bell.
My notes will cover some of what I found to be important to me while reading the book. I recommend that you purchase the book for more detailed information.
Chapter 1: Leadership Decisions for the Common Core: 5 Questions Every Educational Leader Must Ask… and Answer
Transitioning to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is not an issue of compliance to secure money and grants; it is an issue of moral purpose and imperative. Leading the transition to the CCSS through a compliance approach will not lead to informed and deep level buy-in by staff. Adopting the CCSS with a compliance mindset will encourage the culture of “this too shall pass.”
The CCSS are not perfect, but are superior to standards found in 90% of states (see www.EdExcellence.net) and are better than teaching to the bell curve. Dr. Reeves talks about how the bell curve does education a grave injustice and makes a solid argument that teaching to standards is a superior model to undertake.
Standards and Norms
There are two ways to evaluate student learning.
- Compare students to each other, thus creating winners and losers – as is often done today.
- Compare their achievement to standards and respond when students don’t reach the standard.
Leaders must help staff focus on specific steps that prepare students to be successful in subsequent grade levels and lead to high school graduates who are prepared to excel in college and/or the work force.
Dr. Reeves points out three critical aspects:
- Make connections to what teachers are already doing in curriculum and instructional practices that align and can be transferred to implementation of the CCSS.
- Writing needs to be part of EVERY discipline and content area. Students need to write more with a purpose and eyes toward citing evidence to inform and persuade.
- There is a major increase in math rigor in the CCSS. There is an emphasis to narrow the content and focus on automaticity of facts and calculation at the elementary level and focus on math modeling in the middle school. Mathematical habits of the mind are to support student learning and attainment of mathematics and application.
School leaders MUST monitor implementation of the CCSS long before the end of the school year’s standardized tests and do so throughout the school year to make instructional decisions that lead to improved student learning and application.
Formative assessments are used by teachers and expected by leaders. Daily formative assessments inform the teachers each day how each student is progressing to the standard(s). Common formative assessments are used for teachers to collaborate and review student results as embedded professional development toward improved pedagogy and student learning.
Leaders must focus on the what (content standards) and the how (pedagogy). Informed leaders require essentials (e.g. argument writing) and monitor effectiveness.
Dr. Reeves reviews his implementation audit, which has four quadrants. Along the base of the box is “Implementation” and up the left side is “Impact.” The quadrants (starting at the bottom left and proceeding in a clockwise fashion) are Weed, Lead, Investigate, and Evaluate.
- Weed – low implementation and low impact; may be a waste of time and should be discarded.
- Lead – low implementation and high impact; may be an activity that needs more time and focus because of its potential to impact student learning.
- Invest – high implementation and high impact; these activities produce a high “return on investment” and should be supported and championed by the school leader.
- Evaluate – high implementation and low impact; these activities may be part of a “culture” or teachers’ favorite, but leaders need to influence others’ thinking around these activities and eliminate them.
Leaders need to strike a balance that reflects the CCSS and the community values. The “extras” cannot be ignored and can and should enhance students’ well rounded educational experiences.
Take a few minutes and respond to the questions below. Your thoughts may help other leaders moving forward.
Questions: Of the five decision points, Moral Imperative, Preparation, Monitoring, Focus, and Balance, which is the most critical for you to get behind and influence your staff towards? Which is/are already in place?