Monday, July 9, 2012

Common Core... what's that?

As part of my new position as a Director of Curriculum, I have been spending the last few weeks trying to gather information and resources to strengthen my knowledge of the ever looming and inevitable Common Core transition. Though I do not claim to be an expert of the Common Core, I do believe I have established a good foundation and understanding of what ultimately lies ahead of us all.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend ASCD's summer conference in St. Louis. As I was looking through the session handbook I really focused on sessions that were related to Common Core, and specifically the implications of Common Core, as well as the steps districts can take to help make the transition as smooth as possible.

Before we can really get into Common Core and what it means for us as Educators, we must realize that Common Core is much bigger than any one individual, any one school, any one district, and any one state. Common Core is about the United States of America and its future prospects in an ever increasing global society. For the record, I am not against the Common Core transition, but I am also not an advocate. Right now, I am an Educator who wants to understand the justification and rational behind the Common Core, and more importantly, I want to figure out how we can use Common Core to enhance and improve our educational systems.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs was one of the presenters at ASCD, and I would highly recommend checking out some of her stuff. One of the main points that Heidi made about Common Core is that we need to change and shift our mindset. Jacobs says that many Educators have the mindset that we have to do Common Core simply because we have to stay within compliance. This is the completely wrong approach says Jacobs. "Common Core provides districts a chance to improve upon what they are already doing well, and a huge opportunity to improve upon what they are not doing so well."

Another main argument that Jacobs makes is that too many Educators think that Common Core will replace their current curricula. This is absolutely incorrect, says Jacobs. Common Core was never designed or intended to be a district curriculum. Common Core outlines what students should be able to do, but does not tell Educators how to do it. In other words, Common Core is the "what," while Educators all across the country still have the autonomy and freedom to determine the "how."

If you are looking for the history and the events that led up to the Common Core initiative, I would recommend reading, "Understanding Common Core State Standards" by John Kendall. This book was a simple and quick read that provided a ton of useful information for district leaders as they begin to prepare for the transition.

Common Core is fast approaching, and the 2014-2015 school year will be here before we know it. If you are a district leader, it's time to start preparing and laying the groundwork for this initiative. If you are a teacher or teacher leader within your district, make sure you are putting pressure on your district leaders to get training and structures in place to ease the transition. Jacobs probably said it best when she said, "We have a 19th century school schedule, a 20th century curriculum & a 21st century child." The time to improve is now...

Common Core is not the silver bullet to all of our educational woes, but in my opinion (if embraced & done properly) Common Core can be a welcomed and fresh approach to improving education in The United States.