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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

15 Wrong Ways to Implement the Common Core




guest post by Johnna Weller, Ed D. Note from Vicki: As I was talking to Johnna from Discovery Education about this post, I started hearing her talk about districts who are struggling with Common Core. We thought that it would be helpful to know what people are doing to cause their districts to fail in implementation. Of course, if we learn from failure, we can fail forward into success. Thanks Johnna for this guest post. (See disclosures at the bottom.)
Answers to complex questions never
come in a box. A seal on a box does not
guarantee success.

15.  Expect that a packaged program will be the magic bullet.

We’ve all seen the labels on the cover of teacher’s manuals that say (in bold print), “Aligned to CCSS.”  And, although the lessons might be matched to specific CC standards, and include quality examples of “close reading” or “text-based questions,” there is no program that can cause our students to be deep and critical thinkers.  
Of course, materials can be a helpful resource to teachers, but they are only as good as the teacher who uses them.   This is my mantra:
“Programs don’t teach kids, teachers teach kids.”  
So, read the labels, and be a judicious consumer of what’s out there, but know that you can’t buy CCSS implementation in a box.

14.  Expect that anything will be the magic bullet.

Despite what you may have seen or heard, there is no simple solution to implementing the Common Core.  Meaningful implementation is a process…a process of refining and reflecting instructional practice.  That process takes time, and various strategies (just like the way we want students to problem-solve).  
No single product, event, or experience -- no matter how powerful -- will single-handedly flip the switch to Common Core.  Educators should be strategic in their implementation by designing a plan that includes a variety of high-quality ways to move toward  transforming their classrooms.  Such an implementation plan needs to address curriculum, assessment, and instruction.
Technology is mentioned in the Common Core
State standards 40 times! It is important but teachers
are still important.

13.  Put all your eggs in the technology basket.
There is no doubt that technology has the power to transform teaching and learning.  Plus, it is mentioned in the CCSS no less than 40 times.  But, unto itself, technology/media/digital, etc will not guarantee that students question, connect, infer, analyze, and think.  That’s where teachers come in.  (Remember, there’s no magic bullet.)  
The most powerful way to leverage technology, is to engage in ongoing professional development and collaboration to learn, practice, and infuse it meaningfully into instruction. (These ideas are evident in Discovery Education’s design of professional development that puts amazing technology in teachers’ hands, but recognizes that the power of its effectiveness is through instruction.)  
12.  Remove everything from your curriculum that isn’t attached to a Common Core standard.
Even the CCSS documents themselves say that the standards “…do not—indeed, cannot—enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn. The Standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum consistent with the expectations laid out in this document.”  
So, don’t forget about health.  And the arts.  And more. (See If Common Core Standards Become our Straight Jacket, we'll hate what education becomes for how this is happening in some schools already.)
"Creativity" is listed in the Common Core
State Standards - even in math! How do you
get creative with math? 
11.  Don’t empower the creative genius of students and teachers.
You might be surprised to know that the word “creativity” appears in the Math CCSS (yes, math!).  We can value and nurture creativity by producing, not only consuming, a variety of information, ideas, texts, and media.  
You need a network. These Discovery Educator Network (DEN)
teachers are meeting to collaborate and learn from each
other. You can collaborate and connect for
mutual learning experiences wherever teachers
connect... on Twitter, Facebook, and face to face.
They are all vital parts of the savvy educator's PLN.
10.  Go it alone.
The positive impact of collaboration has been validated by researchers and practitioners.  As a profession, we must tap into and share our collective expertise to support our individual efforts. Teachers might be superheroes -- but even superheroes accomplish more when they work together.  
(An example of a powerful electronic community of practice is Discovery Educator Network (DEN), where teachers from across the country share ideas.  Discovery also holds a variety of opportunities for teachers to come together live and in person to learn and share with each other.)  
9. Focus only on outcomes and not processes.
Student learning, aka deep thinking, is the goal of the Common Core.  Remember that learning is a process.  So, even though we look to our outcomes and data as measures of learning, we can’t ignore the process.  The same idea applies to teachers.  Teachers need opportunities to learn, plan, act, and reflect.  

Beware of how you define rigor!
Giving kids harder math problems or more difficult books
to read doesn't increase the rigor. It only increases frustration.
Talk to your staff about what rigor is!
8.  Equate complexity with difficulty.
Webster defines complex as
“having many parts, details, ideas, or functions.”  
In our information-driven world, our students will need the ability to process, filter, and ponder many sources of information.  For this reason, the Common Core standards promote critical and complex thinking.
That means that students need opportunities to learn, practice, and apply these skills.  So teachers need to demonstrate, model, and support students in these tasks.  That’s not the same as assigning difficult tasks.  
Giving kids harder math problems and more difficult books to read doesn’t increase the rigor.  It only increases frustration -- for the student and the teacher.  This takes us back to the importance of time for teachers to learn, plan, act, and reflect on ways to engage students in complex thinking.

7.  Make it more about curriculum-alignment than instructional practice.
Obviously, a well-designed and cohesive curriculum is a part of CCSS implementation.  However, even the best curriculum delivered poorly is doomed.  Instructional practice is the key to creating classrooms where students are deep readers and writers who inquire, question, critique, and synthesize.   Research continually points to the impact of the teacher as the most powerful factor in student learning.  To continue that thought…
6.  Ignore the need for professional development.
High-quality professional development is the best way to make the transition to the Common Core.  Consider a variety of options to include follow-up and collaboration.
5. Don’t communicate with parents and the community.
As we move forward into a model of school that looks different than sit and get (finally), parents need to understand that rote memorization will be lessened, while inquiry and problem-solving will be increased. It’s true…this is not your grandmother’s classroom.  Technology allows the world to be our classroom.  To be successful, this shift will require the mutual support of school, home, community.  

Classrooms should always be improving and leveling up learning.
As a profession, we should be the premier learning organization.

4. Say, “We do this already.”
No matter what you’ve “done” regarding Common Core, there is plenty more to learn and apply.  As a profession, we should be the premier learning organization.  Unfortunately, sometimes we are not.  The type of thinking that keeps us static will not help us get better.  Remember, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.
3. Don’t network outside of your school.
In the same line of thinking as #10, schools can’t thrive in a cocoon.  The CCSS are a fabulous opportunity for educators across the country to be talking the same language, sharing ideas and generating synergy.  None of us is a smart as all of us.  It’s evident by the ideas on pinterest and the discussions on #ccchat that we can be collective thought-partners.
2. Be afraid.
Fear of change.  Fear of the unknown.  Why be afraid?  We could learn from NASA -- which accomplishes historic feats by being open to change, curious about the unknown, and enticed by challenge.  This is an exciting time for society and education -- and most importantly, our students.  Let’s embrace the challenge and stretch ourselves.  The most powerful practices begin in the classrooms of teacherpreneurs who study, apply, and reflect on their practice.
1.  Don’t focus on kids.
Always remember why we do what we do.  Implementation of the Common Core with flying colors -- shiny curriculum, top-notch assessments, and even stellar instructional practices -- won’t mean anything if it’s not connected to your students.

Act to improve your classrooms.

What you can do
So, now that you know what NOT to do to implement the Common Core, here’s something that you can do: tap into the variety of options that Discovery Education offers.  We don’t claim to be the magic bullet (there isn’t one, remember?).  But, they can provide a variety of tools to add to your implementation plan.  
To help teachers and administrators implement Common Core well (and avoid pitfalls listed above), Discovery Education is providing professional development academies in various location across the US this summer.
Regardless of whether your school has access to Discovery products, these academies provide proven practices in instruction, curriculum, and assessment into classroom applications that support long-term planning and immediate classroom application.  
As a trusted educational partner, Discovery Education has worked with thousands of educators to transform teaching and learning.  They understand that successful implementation requires a focus on fundamentals: curriculum, instruction, assessment, and leadership.
You can learn about the four academies at:
Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I have used personally. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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