Across the country, states work at various points along a continuum for implementing the Common Core. As school districts translate the standards into classroom instruction, the depth of interpretation and application also varies. In the next few days, we will offer some specific suggestions for implementing the Common Core. To support balance in Common Core interpretations and their corresponding implementations, we are stepping into the very practical realities of implementation. How might instruction in the Common Core State Standards look in your classroom? How will you redesign your literacy block? What will change and what will remain?
We tend toward glass-is-half-full interpretations, assuming both that much of what is in the Common Core is sound and that much of what you need to do to teach it is already in place. The Common Core recommends “shifts” in elementary schools, and the term “shift” carries particular implications. The people who wrote the standards are word people, and they chose the term “shift.” They didn’t choose “change” or “overhaul.”
For some who are writing about the standards, however, there is extensive talk about how hard it is going to be to implement them. Fear messages fly through cyberspace, warning of the impending impossibilities of implementing the standards and forecasting required instructional changes that are pedagogically unsound. But in reality, once you have both knowledge and understanding of the standards and their context, little of what the Common Core suggests will prove seismic, although it will require energy and intention to implement well.
On the other extreme, some school districts and materials developers are considering the standards on a knowledge level. They hold up their current instructional standards alongside the Common Core and tick off the things they are already addressing. They quickly decide that they won’t need to do anything very differently. They say things like, “We aligned the Common Core with our standards and we are really already teaching them.” Such statements indicate that the larger context of the Common Core is being overlooked.
David Coleman offers an invitation, “So I invite you many of you who have more experience and intelligence than I, to look towards a shift, to think about what really changes here ….” (NYSED transcript, p.8). Looking at what “really changes” as a part of the Common Core shift is the focus of our next few blog posts. We hope they make the work of adopting the Common Core a reflective process that supports professional growth, while also making your transition into a new school year a little easier.