The move to the Common Core State Standards requires much more than adopting a new curriculum and some new standards. Common Core requires not only a major change in what teachers teach, but also a major shift in the way they teach.
Many states have done a good job letting their educators know “what” has to be done. The challenge, however, is the availability of resources to help administrators and teachers fully understand “how” to do it. The discussion of “how” to implement CCSS focuses generally on teachers. I would submit that the first professional development, and the first focus of “how,” must rest with district and school leadership.
For leadership, the challenge is how to successfully guide their teachers in understanding, planning for, and implementing the new standards. CCSS is not just another curriculum change. CCSS requires teachers to change the way they teach. And while the mechanics, the alignments and the “what-you’ve-got-to-dos” are important, equally, if not more so, is how this transition will affect teachers on a personal level.
Common Core State Standards don’t just change the system… they change everybody in that system. Institutional change is hugely personal. Faculty members, professionals that they are, are human. They may approach change professionally, but they really want to know how all of this impacts them personally. “What do I have to do, what changes do I have to make and how do I do it? What kind of support will I have? Will I have help or do I have to figure this out all by myself?” This is human nature. Strong leaders recognize it, respect it and take steps to help teachers make their personal transition. Leadership is most successful when it brings a clear focus, an informed process and a supportive hand to faculties who are being challenged to invent a new way of doing business. They just can’t do things the way they always have anymore.
There are a number of steps for leadership to address. My suggestion is that the most important of these steps is “Communicate.” If teachers want to know how this will impact them personally, have a quick, complete, supportive communications plan. Let them know:
1. Who will provide the overall district and school leadership and who makes up the implementation team.
2. The specific tasks and responsibilities for the administrative team and how they will be supported.
3. Criteria and indicators to determine the instructional staff’s understanding of common core standards, so that personal impact can be assessed and addressed.
4. The contact person in charge of communicating information regarding the new standards to the staff. The plan on how information will be disseminated to parents and community stakeholders.
5. Current instructional resources that have been inventoried; needed resources determined and a plan for how those resources (including professional development) will be made available to teachers.
6. The design and makeup of various curriculum teams to align curricula to common core state standards and what their individual role is.
7. How you are going to support them. Outline the professional development plan; plans for ongoing pd, coaching and support; and once this ship has left the dock, how leadership will keep it afloat and pointed in the right direction.
At the end of the day, the transition to the Common Core State Standards involves a lot of teacher anticipation and anxiety that precedes preparation. Effective, clear communication can ease the anticipation, reduce the anxiety and help preparation occur smoothly.
The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning