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Talent Managers Play Key Role in Common Core Implementation

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Melanie Wightman, a School Improvement Specialist at Battelle for Kids, contributed to this post. Melanie works with teachers and principals to understand connections between fostering student growth and implementing the Common Core State Standards. Melanie has been in education since 1975 and believes that while children make up about 23 percent of the U.S. population, they are 100 percent of our future!

Next to evaluation, NCLB waivers, Race to the Top, and performance pay, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are one of the most highly discussed topics in education in 2012. While many write about the associated costs, excitement, or fear of national standards, change, and even what CCSS means for institutions of higher education, not many (if any) write about HR's role in making the CCSS a reality.

As the CCSS implementation moves forward, we see two immediate issues at hand for Talent Managers:

1. Grow who we have! We need SMEs.

Whether we are talking about current or future staff, growing and developing people needs to be a main focus. Talent managers should work with all staff to create professional development programs that build the base, as perhaps never before, that principals and teachers will need to be content savvy, or as we call it in HR, subject matter experts (SME). SMEs are (typically) actively and energetically engaged in pursuit of content knowledge--in and beyond their licensure areas. Implementation of CCSS, in both English language arts (ELA) and mathematics, can be driven only by those who know the content well enough to perceive and leverage connections.

In ELA for instance, a teacher--who knows what fictional literature is compelling for her grade level and emphasized these texts in lesson plans--will now be compelled to ratchet the amount and complexity of informational text she presents to students. This will require learning on at least two levels. On the first level, she will need to be up to speed in regard to 21st century information literacy, using databases and leveraging digital repositories on information. On the second level, she will need to explore texts she might ultimately share with students as well as to develop connections among texts. In fact, to fulfill all the ELA standards in reading, writing, language, listening/speaking--and also social studies/history, science, and technological literacy--will require significant study, planning, and collegial conversation.

A Mathematics teacher will face similar challenges, particularly in responding to the "shifts," or major emphases in these new standards. One shift, designated Coherence, requires a math teacher at any level, even early elementary, to understand the many interdependencies among various mathematics domains, such as Number Sense and Measurement or Algebra and Geometry. Another shift, Application, obliges the teacher to design real world problems and then guide students in solving them. To meet this obligation, math teachers will need to join ELA teachers in pursuit of 21st century information literacy and technology skills, or they will falter in efforts to provide context and frameworks for this kind of learning.

A principal, in short, will need to be out ahead of these content-intense aspects of Common Core ELA and math--as well as social studies/history, science, and technology. Principals will need to be solidly versed in order to lead cross-content teaching and learning. Their charge includes both encouragement of teachers and (this cannot be overemphasized) responsible engagement with teacher observation and evaluation. With stakes so high, principals must be poised to candidly assess their own content expertise BEFORE performing the role of teacher evaluator. When deficit exists, the principal must work to fill the gaps--or partner with another administrator or lead teacher.

2. Select the right people.

With the need for SMEs to support the successful implementation of the Common Core Standards, states and districts must be deliberate about who they hire. Education leaders should use multiple measures to select high-quality staff to execute this work. These measures could include subject matter tests for knowledge, talent-based screeners, reference checks, interviews, writing samples, in-box activities, or previous performance. The challenge is identifying what skills, knowledge, abilities, and other traits to look for in the ideal candidate. How do you screen for those traits? What skills are you willing to develop in house?

These decisions are critical as people not only create an organization's culture, but are accountable for its outcomes. HR is rarely mentioned in the conversations around the Common Core, but talent managers play a key role in the successful implementation of the Standards.

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