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How States Are Progressing on the Common Core

The Center for Education Policy has released the second report in its series exploring the state of implementation of the new Common Core State Standards.

The report, published yesterday, is based on a survey of 35 state education agencies that was designed to get updated information on state strategies, policies and challenges in the second year of transition to the CCSS.

The survey found that most states that have adopted the CCSS are taking actions to help teachers master them. More specifically, a majority of states report they are developing materials to help teachers master the CCSS (34 states) and almost as many (33) are conducting statewide professional development initiatives.

Nine states are projecting full implementation of the standards by 2013-14; 16 states in 2014-15; and one by 2015-16.

My interactions with educators in the field often centers on their concern that while teachers are interested in learning more about the standards, they are unwilling to adopt them fully as long as the current assessments are in place. Teachers are seeking assurance that if they transition fully to the new standards they will not be penalized on current assessments. They also want assurance of absolute alignment between CCSS and the new assessments. When these issues can be satisfactorily addressed, teachers will take the steps necessary for deep implementation.

I understand their position. Education leaders must strike the right balance between supporting transition to the new standards and leaving in place what is necessary for current accountability systems. This requires careful curricular and instructional planning guides. Professional learning can be designed and staged to support clear transitions in instruction, curriculum, and new assessments. Of course, this also means that states may face plans that call for longer and larger commitments to professional learning.

Several states already recognize this dilemma. According to the report, "Twenty-one survey states said that finding adequate resources to fully implement the standards would be a major challenge." Other challenges cited include providing sufficient professional development, aligning the content of teacher preparation programs with the CCSS, and developing CCSS-aligned educator evaluation systems for teachers and principals.

Once again, these challenges should not serve as deterrents; rather they are opportunities to recognize what is essential to ensure that we achieve deep implementation that transforms the ways teachers teach and students learn. Highly effective and sustained professional learning is necessary to achieve this outcome.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward

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