I am eagerly anticipating the date when the Common Core State Standards must be implemented in our schools. I’m wondering what will happen. Hmmm. In fact, I have two questions… (and yes, I am having a little fun with these questions!)
1. Why do we use the term “Common” Core State Standards if they really aren’t that “Common?” After all, there are several states that made the decision not to adopt the Common Core State Standards. I suggest we re-name them the “Un-Common” Core State Standards…sort of like the Un-Cola.
2. Are there Common Core “police” who are going to check up on school systems to see if they are really implementing the Common Core State Standards? Remember SNL’s skit that involved the “land shark?” Will there be a Common Core “shark?”…sorry…I couldn’t resist THAT one!
All kidding aside, the transition to the Pa Common Core State Standards in Math and English Language Arts Standards started during the 2010-2011 school year with full implementation required by July 1, 2013. That means that by the 2013-2014 school year, teachers will be required to teach using the Common Core State Standards!
Some teachers feel prepared while others do not. The Common Core State Standards are worded differently than the Pa State Standards. Students will be required to process and think deeper and broader than ever before. Teachers will become facilitators of learning as they empower students to reason and apply what they know while synthesizing information from a number of sources.
This way of teaching will be new for teachers and students. Parents and our community members will need to understand these changes, too. All stakeholders will eventually realize that the educational system is changing.
In order for this to happen, Standards-Based Professional Learning will need to become a priority. It is time that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania begins to recognize this. Presently, each school district in our state is not required or held accountable for any standardized level of professional learning. This means that on days set aside for Professional Learning (inservice days), anything can happen. For example, some districts spend their time wisely and teachers learn strategies they can implement immediately. Other districts plan poorly and teachers don’t know where to report until the last minute or are given activities to do that have no meaning or purpose. If an initiative such as the Common Core State Standards is so important, why don’t we place a priority on educating our teachers, afterall, don’t our teachers deserve to be informed on the latest reforms that influence student achievement?
Learning Forward, formerly known as the National Staff Development Council, has developed Standards that outline the characteristics of effective professional learning. Learning Forward’s vision for high quality professional learning is, “Every educator engages in effective professional learning every day so every student achieves.” A list of the Standards for Professional Learning can be found at www.learningforward.org.
For the past two years, Learning Forward PA has been advocating for the Pennsylvania Department of Education to adopt the Standards for Professional Learning into Policy. Personal visits have been made to the Department. Presently, PDE is not interested in doing so at this point in time. When LFPA inquired as to the type of response the Department of Education would provide when Pa teacher was found to be in “need of improvement” according to the new teacher effectiveness program, the present plans to help the teacher improve are to place the teacher in an online course. Although PDE has partnered with a reputable online learning company, I am fearful that when this online course is administered in this isolated manner, it will not meet the standards for effective professional learning; especially for a teacher who is in need of improvement.
LFPA is not willing to give in so easily. LFPA is determined to advocate for this cause on behalf of the teachers and students so that all will feel comfortable with any initiative that is imposed upon our teachers. In fact, if districts want to adopt the Standards on their own through a school board vote, they can do so by contacting Learning Forward PA (www.learningforwardpa.org).
This year, the initiative is the Common Core State Standards. Next year, the initiative could be something different. Whatever the initiative is, effective, Standards-Based Professional Learning will be needed to make it happen. Will YOU be willing to advocate?
Dr. Frances A. Miller,