January 15, 2016

Building the Missing Link between the Common Core and Improved Learning

The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, raise the bar for what students need to learn at each stage of their K-12 education. The goal is to better prepare students for college and careers. And the most important thing that education leaders can do to help the Common Core succeed is to support teachers in improving their practice.

By: Amy Coe Rodde

Executive Summary

While not all field leaders are grasping the opportunity presented by the Common Core to transform teaching and learning, three exemplars—Kentucky, Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, and Center for Inspired Teaching—are using the new standards to change the daily work of teachers and students.

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They are doing this by:

  1. Embracing and communicating how significantly the Common Core will raise the bar for student learning, and that this higher bar requires dramatic changes in instruction. For example, the Kentucky Department of Education launched ReadyKentucky, a public information initiative aimed at drumming up support by business, community, and parents for the new standards and the importance of staying the course.
  2. Making sure teachers are at the front of the movement and working together to lead their own improvement toward shared, ambitious goals. Center for Inspired Teaching, a technical assistance provider, for example, works with districts to engage teachers as full collaborators in instructional improvement.
  3. Providing teachers with the structures, time, and resources required to sustain the many years and many cycles of inquiry and improvement necessary to achieve the new bar for student learning. At Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, education leaders realized that teachers would need ongoing support to sustain the instructional improvement that the Common Core requires. As a result, the district is using their system of Professional Learning Communities, small groups of teachers who meet regularly to study effective teaching and learning methods, to help teachers regularly reflect on students’ grasp of the new standards.

The type of systems change the Common Core requires is no easy task, but it is a critical one. The three case studies shared in this paper illustrate how leaders within the system can take steps to empower their best resource—teachers—to seize the opportunity of the Common Core to greatly improve teaching and learning nationwide.

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