ASCD asked some of our affiliate leaders to tell us how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has been going in their home states. Below, we hear from Alina Davis, the president of Florida ASCD, on the challenges and successes that Florida has had with CCSS implementation.
Implementing new standards is not unfamiliar territory for teachers in Florida. In 2007, we were introduced to the more rigorous Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSS), which led to the need to enhance curriculum and redesign instruction. When the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were introduced in 2011, the idea of something new was not scary, but the level of complexity was new territory. The Florida Department of Education developed a timeline for implementation that included training, instruction, and assessment. With professional development, kindergarten teachers would begin the implementation of the CCSS in 2011–12, and 1st and 2nd grade teachers in 2012–13, while a blended curriculum (NGSS/CCSS) would be used in grades 3–12.
Statewide webinars and additional professional development were offered to the districts as tools to assist in the transition from NGSS to CCSS. While many districts are incorporating additional training and support, the levels of awareness and understanding of how to implement the Common Core standards varies. In classrooms where schools and districts have devoted time to train teachers, students are being exposed to more challenging or complex texts, making connections across the curriculum, and using higher-order thinking questions.
It has been a challenge to determine the best way to imbed the Common Core standards in the curriculum being used for students in grades 2–12. These students will still take the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT), which will assess the NGSS, creating the need for a blended curriculum. Some district and school teams are using this as an opportunity to develop common assessments and implement the lesson study design. Teachers are engaged in rich conversations about how to teach more effectively and provide students access to the knowledge materials needed to succeed.
One of the most significant challenges faced by our state is addressing the needs of English language learners and students with disabilities. Instruction must be modified for both groups, but finding materials or resources that provide support and also meet the standards is a challenge. How English language learners will access the standards at their language levels is not clearly defined, and the English language proficiency standards must be changed to align with the Common Core. Without this knowledge, differentiating instruction for English language learners is a struggle.
For students with cognitive disabilities, the NGSS offered Access Points where students could achieve the standards based on the level of support they required. Those points are not included in the Common Core, causing many special education teachers to navigate a path through the standards on their own. Another challenge that schools face in implementing Common Core standards is the limited or even nonexistent money available for professional development. This makes the integration of cutting-edge technology nearly impossible. It brings up the question, “How will schools prepare for the PARCC assessments that are to be given online?”
The Common Core State Standards are redesigning how we teach. Replacing workbooks and scripted textbooks with more student-generated, authentic work that keeps students engaged and active is an arduous and time-consuming process that daunts many teachers.
There is a vast array of tools available to help with implementing the Common Core standards. Florida has developed online toolkits, including the Just for Teachers website and CPALMS, a platform to “collaborate, plan, align, learn, motivate, and share.” Districts have trained cadres of teachers to go into schools to demonstrate and help develop lessons that are based on the Common Core standards. Teachers are using websites, Twitter, blogs, and Pinterest to find lesson ideas and support.
As educational leaders work to implement the standards, it is important to be consistent and patient with students and teachers. Find ways to offer teachers ongoing professional development that makes them feel confident they are using the correct materials and techniques to implement the Common Core State Standards. Be proactive in finding ways to support English language learners and students with disabilities. Explore and expand technology. Change the mindset from “paper and pencil” to drill deeper to the core of learning. Finally, help teachers discover new ways to make the standards relevant to the students and build their capacities to support the learners of our future.
For more information on the Common Core resources ASCD has to offer, visit www.ascd.org/commoncore.