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GIVING TEACHERS A MEANINGFUL VOICE: New Center for American Progress Report Documents the Role of Teachers in Common Core Implementation

Implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) cannot succeed without the involvement and support of teachers. A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) highlights six school districts where teachers are influencing, and leading, the implementation of the CCSS in their schools.

The CAP report profiles the work of Baltimore City Public Schools (Baltimore, Maryland); Georgetown Exempted Village Schools (Georgetown, Ohio); Marquardt School District 15 (Glendale Heights, Illinois); Poway Unified School District (San Diego, California); San Juan Unified School District (Carmichael, California); and Washoe County School District (Reno, Nevada). Although the six districts vary in size, location, demographics, and academic achievement, all have collaborated with their local teachers’ unions to share decisionmaking and “give teachers a meaningful voice” during the implementation of the CCSS, according to Teacher Leadership: The Pathway to Common Core Success.

“As studies show, formal partnerships between unions, administrators, and teachers help improve student learning, which is the ultimate goal of the Common Core,” the report states. “Giving teachers a voice in the implementation process allows them to see value in continuing with the Common Core for student success.”

Each of the districts profiled involves teachers in district- and school-level governance structures to ensure that teachers influence decisions about the CCSS and other district matters. The districts created leadership opportunities that allow teachers to work for the district or teachers’ union full time to facilitate the transition to the CCSS. The districts offer leadership opportunities for teachers still actively teaching in the classroom as well so that the needs and perspectives of practicing teachers inform the implementation process.

Through these leadership opportunities, teachers in the featured districts create and direct their own professional development around the CCSS and write, develop, and select instructional materials aligned with the standards. In Baltimore City Public Schools and Poway Unified School District, for instance, teachers submit proposals to their districts’ governing boards—which include teacher representatives—for professional development courses to address the needs teachers identify. In Georgetown Exempted Village Schools, teachers serve on and lead the “Instructional Task Force,” a team tasked with aligning their district’s instructional and assessment materials with the CCSS. San Juan Unified School District, meanwhile, selected eleven teachers for a one-year special assignment as CCSS facilitators. These facilitators oversee 120 other teachers districtwide who are trained to develop CCSS lessons and instructional materials. Additionally, San Juan Unified School District, Washoe County School District, and Marquardt School District 15 adjusted their school calendars and school-day schedules to provide teachers with additional time for planning and collaboration around the CCSS.

“As districts across the country work to implement the Common Core State Standards, they would be wise to provide teachers a significant voice and opportunity for input on implementation,” the report states. “When teachers are involved in taking on new reforms, they are more likely to see value in them, which in turn can make implementation smoother.”

In a similar initiative, educators nationwide are working with Achieve to evaluate and identify high-quality instructional materials aligned with the CCSS as part of the organization’s Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) peer review panel.

The EQuIP panel includes eighty-four educators who review lessons and units submitted by states, districts, and individual teachers against criteria-based rubrics for the English language arts (ELA)/literacy and math CCSS. Achieve established the EQuIP peer review panel in June 2013 to “build the capacity of educators to evaluate and improve the quality of instructional materials … [and] increase the supply of high-quality lessons and units aligned to the CCSS ….” Since then, the panel has identified more than 100 exemplary CCSS-aligned lessons, which are available to teachers for free on the EQuIP website.

“Developing coherent and engaging unit plans is a core aspect of effective teaching, but I rarely receive content-specific feedback from administrators or colleagues,” said Kristi Brantley, a seventh-grade ELA teacher at Pacetti Bay Middle School in St. Augustine, Florida. “Submitting my unit to the EQuIP Call to Action gave me the opportunity to receive detailed feedback about my work and gave me a way to gauge my professional development. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with other teachers and share the best ideas in the business.”

CAP’s report, Teacher Leadership: The Pathway to Common Core Success, is available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2015/04/28/111762/teacher-leadership/.

For additional perspectives on how states and school districts are involving teachers in the implementation of the CCSS, view the Alliance’s Common Core and Equity video series at https://all4ed.org/commoncoreequity/.

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