The Common Core: A Lifeline for a Nation at Risk?
Will the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) move us beyond a nation at risk?
In 1983, when President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education published a report entitled A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform, it launched a series of restructuring efforts that still reverberate through school halls today. One of the hallmark characteristics of this reform movement was states adopting standards for student learning in all subject areas.
Unfortunately, these standards varied widely in terms of expectations and rigor, and almost 30 years later, too many of our nation’s children remain at risk. In an effort to establish consistent, clear expectations of what students are to learn and be able to do, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers cosponsored an initiative to develop common standards for the entire nation. The work resulted in Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math, English/language arts, and literacy in science, social studies and technical subjects.
Washington state adopted the CCSS in 2011, and by 2014-15, it is expected that these standards will be fully implemented in the state and that student achievement will be measured by a new assessment system. How will we get there?
In the Northshore School District, where I work, instructional coaches (also known as “teachers on special assignment” or TOSAs), have been tapped to prepare our teachers to implement the CCSS. I recently met with these coaches, thinking that resources like Success at the Core could offer some helpful tools to support their work.
We started out looking at the Instructional Expertise module and specifically, at the video called “Effective Coaching Systems.” The video illustrates how one middle school has implemented a schoolwide coaching system and how coaches work with content area teams to build instructional capacity. The coaches appreciated how the video emphasized the importance of the role of the coach in school improvement. At one point in the video, a teacher states, “We’re all in it together. We’re all going through this process and helping each other through it.” I think this is how we all feel about implementing the CCSS.
I also pointed out a few additional Leadership Development modules to support their work. We discussed how the materials in the Implementing New Programs module can help them understand and track the stages of CCSS implementation and how the Aligning Curriculum module offers tools for upcoming CCSS alignment efforts. The coaches were excited, in particular, about the modules’ facilitator guides, which they felt would be great aides as they shared these materials in upcoming professional development sessions.
After exploring the Leadership Development modules, we looked briefly at the Teacher Development resources and watched the “Show Your Cards” video. We then discussed how this formative assessment technique, and others on the SaC site, could be used to help teachers gauge student understanding related to the CCSS.
Finally, we looked together at the SaC blog, Core Connections. There, the coaches were excited to see the emerging dialogue around CCSS implementation and are eager to see how it grows and evolves.
On the 25th anniversary of the release of A Nation at Risk, the nonpartisan organization Strong American Schools released a report card of our nation’s progress since the initial report. Their update stated, “We have enough commonsense ideas, backed by decades of research, to significantly improve American schools.” I see SaC as one such resource. And, I hope that its tools – in conjunction with others being developed to implement the CCSS—will move our nation from “at risk” to “on the path to educational excellence.”
What do you think?