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What Constitutes A Strong Common-Core Implementation Plan?

States and districts are embarking on the work of turning the common standards into curriculum and instruction. But as researchers have documented, (here, here, and here) many don't yet have fully formed, concrete plans for how to do that.

To help move that process along, two groups have created a framework to help states think about what a solid plan should look like. Issued yesterday, the rubric and self-assessment tool defines the ways states can be most effective in bringing common standards into classrooms, offers questions for them to consider when doing that, and looks at exemplary state work in two key implementation areas: curriculum materials and teacher professional development.

Education First and Achieve, which designed the document, said they deliberately set a high bar when thinking about what "exemplary," "strong," "emerging" and "inadequate" state plans would look like because they consider the state's role pivotal in how effective the common standards will be.

The document outlines 16 areas in which states should play strong roles, such as outreach and providing supports to teachers. It also evaluates some of the states' current plans, and highlights "leading" work in two areas. Kentucky, New Jersey, and New Mexico are noted for their work in teacher professional development. Kentucky, for instance, is spotlighted for its statewide clusters of educator leader networks, which gather regularly to brainstorm and solve problems, then share what they learned at their schools back home. Colorado, Florida, and Indiana were noted for their work in curriculum resources.

Achieve and Education First said in the rubric that they do not intend to rate or rank states. By outlining the essential steps they believe states must take, they hope to "push states toward coherent approaches" to common-standards implementation, they said.

Education First analyzed the common-core implementation plans by examining states' Race to the Top plans and their applications for waivers from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. It also drew on research conducted last fall on states' plans with the Research Center of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit that publishes Education Week.

To create the document, Education First worked closely with Achieve, the managing partner of PARCC, one of the two groups of states that are working to design assessments for the common standards. It was presented this week at a PARCC transition and implementation meeting.

Because of the timing of the meeting, the report currently focuses on PARCC states, Jennifer Vranek, a founder partner of Education First, told me. But the consulting group considers the rubric a "living tool" that will also include analysis of the plans of states in the other assessment group, SMARTER Balanced, in the coming months, she said.

The rubric and self-assessment tool are a follow-up to a survey of state plans that Education First conducted with the EPE Research Center last fall. That survey found states in widely varying stages of moving forward with the common standards.

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