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Helping Principals Lead Common-Core Implementation

We've reported a lot here about the challenges teachers and school districts face in turning the common standards into curriculum and instruction. Less attention has been paid to the best ways for principals to lead their schools through the transition.

That area will be the focus of a partnership between the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the College Board. They've teamed up to create a new online community where principals can connect and discuss common-core issues they're facing in their schools.

The two groups will also host a series of six webinars that explore the most effective roles principals can play to oversee curriculum and instruction for the common core. Scheduled topics include building the capacity of teachers to deliver curricula based on the common standards and building a schoolwide literacy program that embraces its key concepts. The first webinar will be Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. EST. The webinars and the online community can be found at a website created specially for this project at edweb.net, a social-networking site for educators.

Mel Riddile, the NASSP's associate director for high school services, told me last week that in talking with members, the group found that principals' unique needs were being overlooked as common-core information made its way to states, districts, and teachers.

"We didn't find anything that matched the needs of school leaders, and we want to avoid bypassing them," Riddile said. "There are dramatic changes in these new standards, and much of the responsibility for putting those into practice will fall on the shoulders of school leaders. They need to understand the standards themselves, but also their implications for operating a school."

For instance, Riddile said, very few middle or high schools have operated schoolwide literacy initiatives; such programs are more common at the elementary school level. But the new demands of the common English/language arts standards—including literacy skills specific to science and social studies—might make schoolwide literacy programs necessary.

The math standards' emphasis on being able to understand math concepts and explain and justify their answers will bring about "a fundamental shift in the way we teach math," Riddile said, and principals will need to know how to oversee such changes, and how to evaluate teachers based on new kinds of instruction.

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