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The Common Core: Beyond “A Poster on the Faculty Room Wall”

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September 12, 2013 03:31 pm

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The following is a guest blog post from Amy Coe Rodde and Lija McHugh, leaders in The Bridgespan Group’s education practice. They have both worked extensively in the field of K-12 education, supporting state, district, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in the pursuit of significant improvement in student outcomes at scale.

The success of the Common Core State Standards will be determined by whether they improve teaching and learning in our schools and drive student success in college and careers. But there is a big risk that we as a country are going to miss this opportunity to foster these improvements. As New York Commissioner of Education John King said, “We have to make sure the Common Core doesn’t become just a poster on the faculty room wall. Instruction has to change….If we don’t understand how big this change is and how much work it will take, then we will not get it done.”

Through our work with states, districts, nonprofits, and philanthropies, we have seen examples of education leaders who understand the magnitude of the instructional shift required and who are doing what it takes to implement the Common Core in ways that yield significant improvement in teaching and learning.  In our paper, “Building the Missing Link Between the Common Core and Improved Learning,” we profile the implementation efforts of Kentucky, Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, and Center for Inspired Teaching. Each is aiming to achieve big changes in instruction that can be sustained over time by:

  1. Embracing and communicating how significantly the Common Core will raise the bar for student learning, and that these new expectations will require 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.

Such work on systems change is not easy, but it is critical if we want the Common Core movement to succeed. As more education leaders seize the opportunity of the Common Core to change teaching practice and student learning, we hope that examples like these will be less difficult to find.

To view or download the full report, “Building the Missing Link Between the Common Core and Improved Learning:  How a State, a School District, and a Technical Assistance Provider are Using Their Best Resource—Teachers—to Implement the Common Core Standards for Improved Teaching and Learning,” go to http://www.bridgespan.org/Common-Core-Standards-and-Improved-Learning.

Amy Coe Rodde and Lija McHugh are leaders in The Bridgespan Group’s education practice. They have both worked extensively in the field of K-12 education, supporting state, district, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in the pursuit of significant improvement in student outcomes at scale. They can be reached at amy.coe-rodde@bridgespan.org andlija.mchugh@bridgespan.org.

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