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What Are School Boards Asking About Common Core?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at my local school board meeting about Common Core implementation and, in particular, the role of instructional coaches in supporting teachers to make the transition in classroom practice. Jefferson County Public Schools (Colo.) was the site of a 2010 evaluation of instructional coaching that prompted my co-authors and me to write Coaching Matters.

A full hour of the meeting had been set aside to help board members know what the Common Core standards meant for the curriculum in the district and state, as well as what steps the district was taking to implement the standards. Without a doubt, Jefferson County central office leaders have taken substantive and aggressive steps to prepare for and initiate implementation of the new standards by establishing a rich online resource of materials for teachers; engaging teachers in training; and supporting principals in leading change efforts.

Board members' questions were insightful and revealed what school board members across the 46 states adopting Common Core both worry about and take responsibility for as leaders and advocates for effective learning for educators and students.

• What is the relationship among the Common Core standards, the new assessments, and our new educator effectiveness system?
• How are principals being prepared to support teachers implement the standards?
• How are we preparing students and teachers to use technology to meet the requirements proposed in the new assessments?
• How will we make the changes we need to make in the limited time before the assessments are fully implemented? How will we accomplish so much in so little time?
• What is the role of professional learning and particularly of our instructional coaches in the implementation of Common Core?
• How do we prevent the changes from overwhelming the entire system?
• How can I be an advocate within the community? What is my role in supporting the Common Core?
• Do we have sufficient resources to support what is needed to achieve success?

What is evident in these questions is strong support for increasing standards for student learning, and commitment to ensuring that both educators and students succeed. The questions also reveal the sense of overwhelming responsibility school boards feel to exhibit sufficient leadership and take concrete steps to support teachers and principals as they implementation the Common Core standards.

District and state leaders, professional associations, and others can provide guidance and support to members of school boards in their role as leaders and advocates. School board members will need to establish clear priorities and goals for full implementation of Common Core standards in every classroom and school. They will want to monitor progress toward implementation and impact on student achievement, and to understand how the Common Core is altering classroom instruction and student learning experiences.

As ambassadors within the community, school board members will benefit from resources that will help them explain and leverage support among parents and community and business leaders. Working hand-in-hand as partners with district and school leaders, school board members are key contributors to the success of Common Core implementation.

Joellen Killion

Senior Adviser, Learning Forward

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