Follow-Up: Teacher Leaders Build Ownership
The best resource to shift education paradigms and build investment is already in schools: the teacher leader. Teacher leaders are those who are invested in education beyond their classroom walls and work to improve educational institutions. And they are the best leverage point that districts have to build teacher ownership of the Common Core.
We can maximize the opportunity that the Common Core brings if districts can identify teacher leaders to learn about the standards and be a resource to peers at their school sites. Districts can strategically identify a cadre of teacher leaders, perhaps department chairs or those with National Board Certification or other criteria, and build their capacity of knowledge about the standards and how to apply them to curriculum and school sites. They can then lead informational and curricular workshops or professional development opportunities for colleagues. Doing so will shift the traditional paradigm that reform is done to schools and teachers, rather than with them.
After my English department colleagues and I created a common writing rubric through examining the Common Core Standards along with rubrics from the AP test, SAT, and state exit exam, a fellow teacher remarked that she really liked the standards and had gone online to check out their accompanying online resources on her own. In part because the effort was initiated from within, the standards were seen as a valuable tool rather than another reform coming from the top down. Powerful opportunities to build ownership abound if schools and districts likewise utilize teacher leaders to partake in a similar function of building early wins that show the value of the Common Core.
There still exists a window of opportunity to use Common Core implementation as an entry point to changing how schools function. Teachers and districts can leverage the Common Core as a means of not only changing curricular standards, but also building the capacity and scope of its teacher leaders, and shifting the framework of how reform in schools is done. From the inside out, with support from the top is my vote.
Linda Yaron is an English teacher in an inner-city high school in Los Angeles. Last school year, she was a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education. She is currently taking part in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program.