Lessons from the Field

Last week, three of my colleagues and I presented at the California Charter School Association's 20th Anniversary Conference. Our presentation topics focused on how to support successful implementation of the Common Core from planning to practice to evaluation to professional development. We were lucky, during and after our presentations, to talk with several impassioned and dedicated educators who believe in the promise of Common Core and are searching for ways to begin implementation.

It is the overwhelming sentiment from teachers and administrators alike that, despite some great strides, the field is still underprepared to implement Common Core with success. Amidst the hope and excitement we heard from teachers last week, we also felt their great trepidation and anxiety. This mirrors the conversations that I have had with educators across the country this year in North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado and Arizona.  The field is now two years into implementation in early adopter states. We at Insight have been lucky enough to work alongside districts such as Syracuse, Baltimore and Memphis and learn with them through these early years of Common Core. California and states who are later adopters have the benefit of learning from early adopters and moving forward in a more purposeful and efficient way.

Here are two lessons from the field that we think could have a great impact on Common Core implementation:

  1. Teacher effectiveness and Common Core cannot live apart from one another. HR departments who are tasked with recruiting, selecting, evaluating and professionally developing teachers must be talking to Chief Academic Officers and curriculum experts. If misalignment between the WHAT teachers are teaching (Common Core) and HOW teachers are being evaluated (teacher effectiveness systems), persists, both important reform initiatives will suffer. Early adopter states have already realized this and are starting to make changes. Baltimore, Syracuse, Memphis and others are starting the hard, but necessary work of aligning their teacher effectiveness initiatives with Common Core curriculum. These districts are making great strides and California and other later adopter states would be setting themselves up for success if they took proactive steps to align the work of teacher effectiveness with the implementation of Common Core. 
  2. Successful implementation of Common Core will take concerted and coordinated efforts from all stakeholders. The exciting and perhaps daunting opportunity of Common Core is that everyone from principals to teachers, to superintendents and parents,  to teachers across disciplines and grade levels, must be talking to and planning with one another. Later adopter states can be smart about their ramp up to Common Core by thoughtfully creating space and time for dialogue and planning amongst all stakeholders. Common Core shifts instruction to focus on depth and rigor and the process by which states implement the Standards should mirror that change.

The promise of Common Core is great and there is an urgent need to prepare all students for not just entry into, but success in college and career. We are excited to see how the lessons learned from early adopter states will positively impact later adopters. 

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