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Leading the Way on Common Core

Learning Forward, in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers, is working with the Kentucky Department of Education and several school districts within Kentucky to transform professional learning and create a framework for a statewide, comprehensive professional learning system that supports deep implementation of Common Core State Standards and upcoming new assessments. This blog post, written by Saundra Hamon, Assistant Director of the Division of Program Standards at the Kentucky Department of Education, provides insight into the state's work implementing Common Core.

Kentucky's implementation of the Common Core Standards in English/language arts and math is supported by a system of Leadership Networks. The vision driving the work of these networks is that every school district in the Commonwealth has a knowledgeable and cohesive leadership team that guides the professional learning and practice of all administrators, teachers, and staff so that every student experiences highly effective teaching, learning, and assessment practices in every classroom, every day.

Teacher leaders participating in each of these 16 networks attend monthly meetings of content specialists in the field and Kentucky DOE facilitators. Participants collaborate with other leaders throughout the region to hone practice and scale up highly effective practices in every classroom within their district.

You can watch a video about the impact these networks have had on participating teachers here.

Each network is a community, but the power comes from the members participating in district leadership teams that promote learning communities in their local schools. The authentic, action-oriented, ongoing learning with their fellow network participants supports the development of expertise in district leadership teams that facilitate this same kind of learning with colleagues in their own school systems. The goal of this approach is shared leadership.

Last spring, as we approached the third year of our three-year commitment to this work, the question was posed, "What resources can we put in the hands of district leaders to ensure CCSS implementation is occurring in every classroom across the state?"

At the same time this question was being asked, Kentucky was selected as the demonstration site for Learning Forward's Transforming Professional Learning to Prepare College- and Career-Ready Students: Implementing the Common Core project. Participants in this task force, which include superintendents, assistant superintendents, instructional supervisors, principals and teachers, were charged with creating Innovation Configuration maps that describe how to effectively build and sustain an infrastructure for successful implementation of college-ready standards within the context of highly effective teaching, learning, and assessment practices. The IC Maps guide districts' reflection, planning, and self-analysis of their current and future work connected to implementation of CCSS, and focus on effective practices as well as concrete doable actions that move a district and school forward toward effective implementation of college-ready standards.

These innovation configuration maps were to be considered a type of formative assessment for districts. Mapping provides actionable steps toward moving to ideal implementation, and provide guidance about what district leadership teams might consider the next actions that will help them move closer to the ideal.

Early drafts of the maps were shared and feedback gathered from the sixteen Kentucky Content Leadership Network Teams, as well as the Critical Friends states involved in Learning Forward's Professional Learning Task Force.

These IC Maps are considered "living" resources that are not set in stone, but instead provide direction based on what we know right now about how district staff can support the schools in their districts in the implementation of the CCSS. In the words of Harrison Ford, "[there's] no limit for better. You keep on going until you get it as close to being right as the time and patience of others will allow."

Nine months after the question was asked, "What resources can we put in the hands of district leaders to ensure CCSS implementation is occurring in every classroom across the state?" the maps are ready to be shared. The process was expedited by having those at the table who were experiencing the thoughtful planning required to design a district-wide system of support for implementation of the new standards. These folks were able to articulate their successes and their challenges in building their own capacity and that of staff.

Implementation of these standards requires changes to assessment practices, to teaching and learning approaches, and to the definition of leadership. For the new learning of teachers and administrators to take hold, it is imperative that support through shared leadership be the norm to meet the expectations and the knowledge students bring to classrooms today and in the future.

Saundra Hamon
Assistant Director of the Division of Program Standards, Kentucky Department of Education

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The opinions expressed in Learning Forward's PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.
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