07/11/2011

Mini-Institutes Look at Implementation of Core Standards

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Common Core State Standards (CCSS) loom large at TEACH this year, with many presentations putting the emphasis on analyzing the policy and classroom implications of this important effort, while identifying strategies and resources that can make this new crop of standards work for students and educators alike.

Common Core Standards workshop 

The mini-institute, "Common Core State Standards: Beginning the Journey," drew a heavy audience of AFT education specialists from Florida to Ohio for a guided train-the-trainer session led by staff from the Teacher Center at the AFT-affiliated United Federation of Teachers in New York City. Rita Danvis, a program coordinator for the center, explained how the union's professional development arm worked with a private foundation at 100 New York City schools last year to prepare building-level educators through professional development tied to CCSS. The audience was led through many activities crafted and honed by the center; these exercises are predicated on the belief that building-level educators benefit most when CCSS information is offered at the building level in discrete segments rather than a tidal wave of one-time-only training.

"We try to take small bites of this [standards] core" to keep the information usable, Danvis explained. The center is constantly mindful that if the educators "go back to their schools and nothing happens, then it doesn't make a difference," she added.

Common Core standards also were featured at the mini-institute for early childhood educators. Under current rules, states are allowed to add a small number of homegrown standards to CCSS, and New York is already devoting the bulk of that set-aside to prekindergarten education. Presenters at the early childhood session emphasized the need for frontline educators to stay involved in the process—particularly since CCSS is based on a "back-mapping" process.

As policymakers work back from college- and career-ready standards to younger and younger students, the danger for early childhood educators is that this process of raw extrapolation could lead to developmentally inappropriate standards for very young learners, said teacher Karen Lassiter, who was part of a team of AFT members who reviewed early drafts in math and English language arts. These teams are continuing their work with CCSS-related curriculum and assessments, and Lassiter encouraged frontline educators in early childhood education to remain vigilant and vocal, as well. "You are going to be the next front," she told the audience. "You need to get out with research and be a voice out there, showing what is developmentally appropriate.

Forty-six states have adopted Common Core State Standards or soon will be implementing them. AFT members have provided substantial feedback on early drafts and revisions of the standards, and the AFT this spring adopted a resolution highlighting necessary steps and conditions for their successful implementation. [Mike Rose/photo by Marvin Jones]

July 11, 2011