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TEACHING TO THE CORE: New Council of Chief State School Officers and Aspen Institute Report Bridges Divide Between Teacher Effectiveness Standards and Common Core Implementation

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“This Aspen Institute and CCSSO paper will help states by describing the linkages between implementation of Common Core and teacher effectiveness policies.”

State education agencies (SEAs) must play a pivotal role in the implementation and performance of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—adopted by forty-six states and the District of Columbia—if states are to see gains in teacher effectiveness and student learning outcomes, a new policy report from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the Aspen Institute finds. The report, Teaching to the Core: Integrating Implementation of Common Core and Teacher Effectiveness Policies, offers ten organization and functional recommendations to help state departments succeed in carrying out the new responsibilities necessary to see long-term improvements in teacher and student outcomes.

“States are actively seeking ways to provide greater support to teachers and principals on both Common Core implementation and teacher evaluation so educators have the tools, resources, and time they need to effectively change their practice for the benefit of their students,” said CCSSO Executive Director Chris Minnich. “This Aspen Institute and CCSSO paper will help states by describing the linkages between implementation of Common Core and teacher effectiveness policies.”

As school districts and states across the country debate and implement new teacher evaluation policies, planning for possible timeline conflicts with the implementation of the CCSS is important. The report raises a concern that teachers will be evaluated based on outdated measures of student progress toward college and career readiness once the new standards are in place. “This sends a mixed signal to teachers regarding the system’s priorities: Focus on teaching the old standards, or focus on transitioning to the Common Core?,” the report asks.

The solution to integrating new teacher effectiveness policies with the CCSS is for SEAs to take a more hands-on role with the goal of creating a culture of adaptation and adherence to the new standards. The report offers ten recommendations for SEAs to succeed in this transition.

The first six recommendations focus on organizational design and functions of state departments:

(1)    Create a planning and management group made up of key leaders and support personnel, along with leading educators and principals, involved in the rollout of the CCSS and teacher effectiveness policies.
(2)    Acquire and develop the internal knowledge and expertise necessary to ensure that the CCSS are implemented with integrity and fidelity.
(3)    Ensure that professional development activities for teachers are plentiful and reflect the expectations within the CCSS.
(4)    Create and support professional networks of school district leaders, principals and teachers to accelerate professional learning and deeper understanding of the CCSS in conjunction with teacher evaluations.
(5)    Enable and prioritize instructional shifts toward the CCSS in classrooms and in teacher evaluations.
(6)    Create a single, coordinated communications plan for college and career readiness that highlights the value of the CCSS and the linkages with teacher effectiveness policies.

The final four recommendations explore changes in practice at state departments:

(7)    Require that the language and definitions outlining high-quality teaching practices used in teacher evaluations be aligned with the CCSS.
(8)    Insist that assessments used in the evaluation of teachers measure the CCSS.
(9)    As a complement to teacher evaluations, develop principal evaluation criteria that highlight the importance of implementing the CCSS with fidelity.
(10)    Support innovations in educators’ daily schedules that provide time for teachers to collaborate on CCSS-related activities during the school day.

Ultimately, the report notes, SEAs must reinvent themselves from agencies that oversee how school districts use state and federal funds to ones that support continuous improvements in learning standards and teacher effectiveness policies. With an SEA’s leadership and involvement, educators and students can maximize the opportunities presented with the implementation of the CCSS, improving student outcomes and equity for all students.

“Breaking down organizational silos is essential,” said Ross Wiener, author of the report and executive director of the education and society program at the Aspen Institute. “Common Core and teacher evaluation must work together as two parts of a whole. This is system-level work that shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of individual schools or teachers.”

Teaching to the Core is available at http://bit.ly/12mxzvl.

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