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Urban Districts Win Support to Pilot Common Standards

We've been telling you in this space about groups of school districts that are taking leading roles in implementing the common standards. We have a bit of an update for you: New York City and Washington, D.C., are joining six other urban districts in leading roles in a pilot to put the common core into practice.

The work is unfolding through the Council of the Great City Schools, which last week announced a $4.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that will be used for a broad range of activities to implement the standards in all of its member districts. But eight will play a lead role.

You'll see that the other six districts (Albuquerque, Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and St. Paul, Minn.) are ones we have told you about before; they're the ones that had originally banded together with the support of the Council and the American Federation of Teachers in hopes of getting a federal Investing in Innovation grant. They didn't win one, but they did get individual $500,000 grants from Gates.

Now those six, plus Washington, D.C., and New York, are serving as "lead" districts in the Council's work to pilot the standards. There is additional overlap in all this pilot activity: Boston, Albuquerque, and Chicago all have money from the AFT Innovation Fund, as well, to do work related to the common standards.

New York has already been at work on a pilot that involves three areas of common-core implementation: curriculum alignment, performance-based assessment, and text complexity. I spent a couple of days with teachers there as they tried to get their arms around the text-complexity work. It is challenging and interesting stuff.

Among the other leaders are Hillsborough County, Fla., Baltimore, and Denver, which are working with the Aspen Institute to pilot the common core (12 other districts are involved, too, in less-intensive ways). A group of seven districts in California, too, have banded together to pilot the common core, though I haven't heard much lately on where that work stands.

As districts work to translate the common standards into classroom teaching, there will be a lot of interesting work to chronicle.

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