Making Time for the Common Core

We have been saying for a while now that the implementation of the Common Core reading and math standards, the most rigorous standards to date, has considerable implications for school time. How can we possibly expect students to know and do more than ever but provide no more time in which to do so?  As I’m fond of saying, it is like asking a runner to complete a 10-mile race in the same time it takes her to run a 5-mile one. So, as implementation of the Common Core begins to roll out this coming school year, it would not surprise us to hear lots of concerns raised from teachers about how getting their students to proficiency in these new, higher standards is a steep challenge, given the limits of current school day.

Even before teachers have had the chance to try out the Common Core in their classrooms, though, they are beginning to grasp the enormity of what it means to shift their teaching to align with a different approach to learning – one that centers more on solving problems than on simply ascertaining facts. The experience of New York City teachers offers a small window into this phenomenon. Recently, over 600 of the city’s schools opted to convert two of the last instructional days of the year to professional development days instead so that teachers could work together to prepare for adoption of the Common Core. What the teachers profiled in this Gotham Schools article recognized as they dedicated these two days to planning was the value of having sufficient time to do so. As the principal explained,
“The task is monumental. You can’t expect the teachers to do anything if you don’t give them the time. It’s one thing to give them professional development, but it’s another thing to give the teachers time to plan their work.”
Put another way, the introduction of the Common Core means not just that we are raising the bar for students, but also for teachers. And if we hold higher expectations for our nation’s educators, we must provide them with the time they need to get there.