Transitioning to national Common Core State Standards will mean raising the level of teaching and learning. As administrators plan to lead the charge, how will they ensure that positive change is taking place in every classroom?
That’s a major topic of discussion during a day-long workshop offered by the North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals Association. Dozens of educational leaders are at NC State’s McKimmon Center to examine the nuts and bolts of implementing CCSS. Instructional specialists are leading discussion-based sessions focused on ways to make sure teachers understand what they will need to do differently to meet the new standards.
One impact of the transition will be a need to design lesson plans that address higher order learning. Participants spend some time examining the standards, then talk in small groups about what they’ve learned.
One summarizes the impact by saying, “We saw that the kids will be learning content, but not learning it in isolation.” Another notes that the new standards will take students from “regurgitation to digestion” of information – actually learning rather than just reciting what they’ve been told. A third participant says examining specific skills across grade levels reveals that “as they progress with that skill, they’re also going up in the Bloom’s Taxonomy.”
After a whole-group discussion, Instructional Specialist Rachel Porter points out that while K12 standards are transforming, College and Career Readiness standards are not changing. The new K-12 standards have been re-designed to build knowledge and skills and lead toward college and career readiness.
What teachers need to understand is how their grade level connects to that anchor, how the language changes, and how it progresses through the grades. Teachers will be encouraged to look at earlier grade standards to see where students will have come from, and later grade standards to see where they’re expected to go next.
For principals, it’s about understanding the change, and knowing where to point teachers for detailed information on standards, lesson plans like those found at http://commoncore.org/free, or other important information like the notes on how CCSS affects EC teachers and students at www.cec.sped.org. It’s about developing a proactive, deliberate, focused comprehensive plan, then working with teachers to carry it out in spite of barriers, challenges and ‘initiative fatigue.’
“Our goal today is for you to have a better sense and more concrete understanding of what those things mean,” Porter says, “so you can convey that to teachers.”
Instructional Specialist Pam Edwards tells the group a key to success will be diagnosing whether teachers are ready for Common Core implementation, and determining what additional professional development or other steps are needed to get everyone moving in the right direction. An early step is identifying school leaders. Who will be on the leadership team? What will they be responsible for doing? What needs to be done right away, and what can come later? What external support is needed?
“Think proactively,” she says. “What do you need to start immediately doing? You are going to have to prioritize. But if you’re going to lead this transition, you now as well as I know, you’re going to need a process.”
The later afternoon sessions focused on just that, with participants working in small groups to research, brainstorm, and begin putting together concrete ‘next steps’ for implementation in their own schools.