Common Core: Implementation getting in the way of a good thing

I appreciate the professional conversation focused on a significant issue in public education; I think it’s important to look at all sides of an issue to truly understand its effects.  While I agree that Common Core raises the bar for learners of all ages, I argue that this is not a bad thing.  I have worked with K-12 students and teachers across urban, suburban, and rural settings, and what I observe is that as a Nation, we grossly underestimate our students’ capabilities.  The problem lies not in Common Core and its expectations.  Rather, I position that the issue is in the implementation of these standards.

In order for our students to think critically, as Common Core requires and emphasizes, instruction needs to change.  Teachers need to be re-empowered to become instructional decision-makers — an important aspect of teaching that was stolen during the NCLB decade of anthologies and pacing guides.  In order for our teachers to make this instructional shift, they need to be supported — truly supported through meaningful, continuous professional learning that will help them be successful.  I’m suggesting more than the sit-and-get workshops in which we have all participated, and beyond your average PLC.  Teachers and leaders today will thrive with ongoing job-embedded coaching and professional collaboration focused on effective instruction.  I have lived this as a teacher, as a district coach, and as a national coach, and I have seen the power of this support and the amazing thinking our students are capable of.

Those of us who have been in education for decades know that Common Core may or may not be around in five years; this is what happens to most initiatives when they are poorly implemented and cause division among educators, parents, and legislators.  Therefore, I position that we shift our focus and energy from arguing against the standards to implementing effective instruction.  Our students are the one constant in education; we are guaranteed that every day, in every year, there will be students looking to someone for learning opportunities.  Hence, instruction — HOW we teach — is essential.  I encourage more of us in the field to respond to these new initiatives with focused, supportive efforts that help our teachers and educational leaders think critically about their practice and learn more about how to be an instructional decision-maker.  This is what will have the greatest impact on the success of our students in school.

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