Friday, April 8, 2011

Cure for the Common Core: Transitions

So what’s your plan? What are you doing to start your Common Core transition?

This is a followup to my previous Blog Post called Common CoreZilla: Shrink The Change

In my work with districts on Common Core integration and implementation, many want to know what they can do right now. Many changes and opportunities for growth are coming, but to look at it as a complete package is very overwhelming.

The main message is still the same as the last blog post:

First step? Shrink the change! (Look to the Heath Brothers’ ideas in their book SWITCH and the associated resources they offer here: )

You cannot expect your transition plan to be that tomorrow you will be on board with all of the coming changes. Just like any journey worth taking, it’s got to be one step at a time. We may not reach our destinations for several years, but we can’t wait for all the necessary pieces to be set in stone before we decide to start planning. We need to set an itinerary, laying out the pieces of our path that we can control right now.

Those pieces include the following, which I think are imperative to bringing everyone on board in a manageable way:
  1. Establishing Collaborative Cultures
  2. Crosswalks/Comparisons - Examination and analysis of the Core Standards
  3. Curriculum Transformations

Establish Collaborative Cultures

If your schools/districts are made up primarily of those with an “island mentality,” then they need to join the continent. Communication and Collaboration are key 21st Century skills that teachers MUST be the model for. Collegial dialogue and consensus around change and growth are vital for a learning organization to move forward in positive and meaningful ways. It would also be a good idea to connect with other educators beyond your schools/districts and participate in globally connective opportunities.
Some resources:

Crosswalks / Comparisons

There has been some debate among my colleagues about the value of the standards comparison. I understand some who’s perspective is that we should just jump on board with the new standards and get down to business. There are others that think handing teachers an already completed crosswalk document does little to enhance their professional practice. I’m on the fence. I believe that engagement and meaning comes from prior knowledge and want this to run as smoothly as possible. Recently, another colleague, Susan Rothwell from the Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services in West Seneca, New York shared her strategy, which I like as a Common Core Standards comparison activity. She explains that teachers should take their copies of the Core Standards in their subject area, and highlight those things that are already represented in their practice/current standards. With another color highlighter, teachers then highlight those items that are both represented in their current standards AND represent a higher level of rigor or higher depths of knowledge. Finally, in another color, highlight those things that are BRAND NEW. Teachers use this discovery method to start updating curriculum maps, frameworks, unit plans, etc. If you are interested in seeing what’s being collected around comparative documents and crosswalks, the Curriculum 21 team has put a binder together:

Curriculum Transformations

Your starting point might be transforming a known element in your new curriculum in terms of rigor, methodology, technology, or depth of knowledge OR your starting point might be designing curriculum around something brand new in your standards. Whatever your entry point, this is a good time to re-examine design and practice in terms of 21st Century skills and doing what Heidi Hayes Jacobs asks in Curriculum 21 when she explains to the reader that they need to consider what to cut, what to keep, and what to replace. The replacement zone is the transformation zone. In order to get what we’ve never gotten, we need to do what’s never been done before. I encourage you to visit the binder that Janet Hale and I created for our work with teachers:

Additionally, in Appendix B of the Common Core Standards for ELA and Appendix A of the CCS for Math, there is information related to Curriculum Design and Performance Task Suggestions to make the analysis and subsequent design a little more concrete.

In New York State, there are many other issues that are related to Race to the Top and the Common Core Implementation, including new Curriculum Models, Data Systems, a new teacher/principal evaluation, AND the upcoming new assessments. I suspect that your state, if participating, is having similar roll out plans. The point here is to deal with what you can in this moment. Be in the now. What can you control / do / implement today or very soon?

Other things will fall in place with time.

Shrink the change. Slow and steady (and purposeful) wins this race to the top!

Photo: Boston, Copley Square Some rights reserved by wallyg

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