Common Core & Teaching: Tell Us Your Story!

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of research around the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  I’ve read stories in newspapers and reports by respected education research organizations. I’ve seen television reports and perused the technical assistance sites of state departments of education. As you no doubt know, there is a lot of talk out there in the education world about Common Core, but if I had to sum up the prevalent mood among educators at all levels, I would use a simple two word phrase: “welcome revolution.”

The revolutionary aspect of Common Core becomes clear when you read of just how monumental the changes in our nation’s classrooms will be.  A few quotes tell the story of just how the teaching/learning dynamic is set to change:

“The standards are, in many cases, one to two years higher than what is currently expected at grade levels.” Sue Gendron, senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education

“The Common Core rests on a view of teaching as complex decision making, as opposed to something more routine or drill-based… It requires instructional strategies on teachers’ parts that enable students to explore concepts and discuss them with each other, to question and respectfully challenge classmates’ assertions.”Charlotte Danielson, Education Consultant

“We’re expecting something different out of students that hasn’t been expected of all students in the past.  Now it’s not just the facts. We’re asking them to further and deeper, think more and be more independent.” Christina Hank, Curriculum Director, Medina City School District, Medina, OH

“It requires everyone to change the way they think about teaching and learning. It requires the teacher to be more of a facilitator in the classroom as opposed to being at the front [teaching] one lesson the same way to all the students.”  -- Teacher in Chicago

So, CCSS will demand that students in 45 states become proficient in more challenging content, collaborate effectively with their peers, develop their own ideas, solve problems and that teachers manage this complex learning process.  All in all, then, calling it a revolution in American schools does not seem an overstatement.

The most exciting part, though, might be the reaction of teachers. In a recent survey, 76 percent agreed that CCSS would help them improve their teaching and story after story relates how hard teachers are now working very hard to seize the tremendous opportunity CCSS brings to improve educational quality and outcomes for American students.  Surely, as with any massive change, there are pockets of resistance, both within and outside of schools, but, these voices of dissent are the clear minority. For most schools and teachers, CCSS is, indeed, a welcome change.

But that doesn’t mean all is rosy. As NCTL often points out, we are conducting this educational revolution stuck within the same antiquated school structure that has been with us for a century. As I wrote many years ago in an op-ed for Education Week, “We would never expect a long-distance runner to complete a 10-kilometer race in the same time he or she runs a 5-kilometer one, but today’s students have essentially been challenged to do just that.”

What about you?  If you are a teacher now working to integrate CCSS framework into your classrooms and approach to teaching, are you finding that you have adequate time to develop your students’ knowledge and skills as much as you need to with these higher expectations? What are the time use implications of encouraging more collaboration and problem-solving among students?  Do you have enough time to collaborate with colleagues so that you feel prepared to implement the expected instructional shifts? 

We would love to hear from you.  Please send your account to us (via my colleague, Blair Brown at [email protected]) and we’ll try to post as many as possible to our blog. We can’t wait to hear from you!