Common Core: What We Have Here is a Learnable Moment

By Lesley Hagelgans

Within the district where I work, the Common Core State Standards were shared with Math and Science teachers in January 2011 – just six short months after the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices approved them.  The information provided by the administration within my district was complimented by research shared at the Gates Convene especially from groups like America Achieves.  My participation in the Gates Convene was an enriching opportunity to learn about what is going on in all aspects of education reform including the Common Core State Standards and related assessment consortiums.

As I was reacquainted with the Smarter Balance assessments last week, I was thinking about teachers who haven’t even seen the Common Core State Standards yet.  The Common Core State Standards were passed in Washington, D.C. in June of 2010, and many teachers will have their evaluations tied to assessments that evaluate student success with the Common Core in spring of 2014.  Why does information take years to trickle down through bureaucratic structures before it lands in the hands of the people it will arguably affect most – teachers?

As recently as last year, I have met teachers from across the country that are not familiar with the Common Core State Standards for various reasons.  I teach in a small school district with limited resources where much of the curriculum design lands in the capable hands of teachers.  I am aware that larger school districts with huge transient populations employ professionals to write assessments and units tied to the Common Core; this information is shared with staff at a convenient time for reforming curriculum whole scale.  Both limited resources and large bureaucratic structures have been cited as reasons for teachers lacking awareness.

What we have here is a learnable and teachable moment.

  • On a systemic level, let’s look at the schools where the Common Core has been integrated and share what works and what does not.
  • As teachers, we need to use our time for sharing resources and strategies to meet the new literacy demands instead of simply lamenting them.
  • Both administrators and teachers need to find ways of replacing something they already do instead of feeling the drain of doing one more thing.
  • Everyone should use platforms like VIVA Teachers, America Achieves, and Hope Street Group to share and retrieve information that will help students be successful.

One last thing, I challenge the Department of Education to study where the Common Core thrives.  Do students excel when the Common Core State Standards land directly in the hands of those teachers who derive their own unit plans tied to common assessments linked to the Common Core or is success better nourished in those districts where teachers had less of a hand in the instructional design but a bounty of professional development to help them teach units and lessons designed by others?

Lesley Hagelgans teaches Language Arts at Marshall Middle School in Marshall, Michigan. She was a member of the National VIVA Task Force.

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