Instructional Leadership in Action

Common Core: An Obituary

by Stephen Fink Feb 2, 2016

When the scathing opinion pieces started rolling in, and the angry protest signs went up, Common Core, at first, couldn’t understand the fuss. Why should kids not achieve at higher levels? And who could deny the fact that the previous system of 50 different standards for what students should learn in school left many kids behind and put the United States on rank 35 (out of 57) in mathematics in the 2006 PISA tests?

Used to being an applause line in speeches, Common Core now found itself at the end of angry complaints and partisan sniping. Something had changed — and the life of Common Core was never going to be the same again.

[Continue Reading]

Shifting to Common Core - Challenges and Solutions in West Baton Rouge Parish School District

by Sheeba Jacob Jul 8, 2015

Just before the 2012 school year, Louisiana lawmakers decided that instead of two years, districts would have only one year to transition to Common Core. West Baton Rouge Parish School District, a small but growing district in southeastern Louisiana, moved quickly to implement the new standards.

One major challenge: getting teacher buy-in for the significant change toward a new curriculum and new way of teaching. One principal summed up the initial hesitation from many teachers this way: "Everybody's having to work harder than they ever had to work before, and the pay is the same. That goes against life, so it's difficult to get people to buy in."

[Continue Reading]

How to Analyze Complex Texts For Your Teaching - Step by Step

by Joanna Michelson May 21, 2015

At a recent high school English department professional development session in our partner district in Avoyelles, La. I observed teachers reading Elie Wiesel's Nobel lecture, "Hope, Despair, and Memory", a text that is included in the ninth grade curriculum. It is a powerful text on the importance of memory to counter hatred and build peace. It explores abstract concepts like the task of remembering horrific, traumatic events while stepping into the future with optimism. The teachers were clearly touched by the message and wanted their students to read it. But they wondered: could the students handle such a challenging text?

As curriculum packages and units of study aligned with the Common Core State Standards become more wide-spread, educators across the country face this challenge everyday. The standards push us to raise the rigor of texts while decreasing the amount of scaffolding, and educators are wondering how to best support students who read below grade level.

[Continue Reading]

Growth Mindset, Strong Partnerships, Part of Common Core Implementation Puzzle

by Sheeba Jacob May 6, 2015

Public schools in 29 states took Common Core standardized tests for the first time this spring - another milestone in the long transition to higher academic standards. Kentucky was the first state in the nation to adopt Common Core State Standards in 2010 and within Kentucky, Boone County School District was one of the first districts to implement these new standards.

The results look promising for the northern Kentucky district. In 2014, the state's Department of Education designated the district as a distinguished district in Kentucky based on results from the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP).

The driving factor for this success and the early adoption of standards was Boone's philosophy. "What we've always been focused on is the fact that we're a high-performing, high-achieving school district, and we constantly strive for world-class standards," said Superintendent Randy Poe.

[Continue Reading]

3 Teacher Support Programs to Ease "Initiative Overdrive"

by Sheeba Jacob Apr 15, 2015

New evaluation systems, new standards, online assessments, personalized staff development, data driven decision-making and many more — in the last few years, districts around the country have had to adopt and integrate an increasing number of initiatives. Bayfield School District in southwestern Colorado (number of students: 1,402) tackled the challenge of "initiative overdrive" with a set of innovative solutions and strong strategic planning.

Making sure teachers were not overwhelmed with all these initiatives has been a top priority for district leaders. To avoid initiative fatigue and help teachers implement Colorado State Standards – the state's version of the Common Core State Standards – they created extensive support systems like SchoolVault, an online formative assessment tool, and pilot programs to provide trainings for Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) and Math Design Collaborative (MDC). (For more information on these tools and trainings read our case study.)

[Continue Reading]

New Website Resource for Implementing Higher Academic Standards

by UWCEL Apr 2, 2015

The University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership (CEL) in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched a new website resource to help school districts across the nation with their implementation of higher academic standards. Bringing together tools, case studies, webinars and videos, this site offers a wide variety resources to deal with common implementation challenges resulting from the recent shift toward Common Core State Standards.

[Continue Reading]

Webinar Series: Exploring the Major Shifts in the Common Core

by UWCEL Aug 5, 2014

This series of recorded webinars, led by Joanna Michelson, explores the major shifts in the Common Core State Standards. Participants will understand what the shifts mean, the research behind them, and how to recognize them in the classroom. Participants will also develop habits for providing feedback to teachers on making the shifts.

[Continue Reading]

Addressing Common Core and Student Learning Begins With Purpose

by Jennifer McDermott Aug 28, 2012

Last fall when I wrote about implementing Common Core State Standards, I touched on a question that many teachers and administrators are asking: “How do we support students who are not meeting the standards?”

In answering that question, I noted that districts and schools that actively use an instructional framework start with an advantage. Especially for the districts across the country using CEL’s 5 Dimensions of Teaching and Learning instructional framework, we see that the foundational work in improving outcomes for students begins with a deep understanding of the transformative role of purpose in learning.

[Continue Reading]

An Interview with Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn

by UWCEL Oct 28, 2011

Randy Dorn was elected superintendent of public instruction for Washington state in 2008. On July 20, 2011, Washington became the 44th state, in addition to one territory and the District of Columbia, to adopt the Common Core State Standards.

[Continue Reading]

Connecting Common Core Standards with Instructional Improvement

by Stephen Fink Oct 26, 2011

With so much of the nation’s attention caught up in partisan and intra-partisan arguing and brinksmanship, it is rare these days to find widely shared agreement on any national issue. But amidst the seemingly intractable political divisions, I have been heartened by the broad support at both the state and national levels for the adoption of the Common Core State Standards for education. Not since the time of Sputnik have such diverse political and popular wills rallied behind a shared nationwide vision of educational attainment.

It should come as no surprise that here at the Center for Educational Leadership we support the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. This state-led initiative was developed in partnership with teachers, administrators and experts, with feedback provided by national organizations including those representing civil rights groups, English language learners, and students with disabilities. The evidence-based standards define a clear and consistent K-12 learning framework for preparing students — regardless of where they live — for success after high school, whether their next step is college or a career.

[Continue Reading]

Subscribe to CEL's blog