Checking in with Common Core Implementation in South Carolina

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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 Principal Josh Patterson of South Carolina ASCD, on the challenges and successes that South Carolina has had with CCSS implementation.

SC ASCDWhere is your state in the process of implementing the Common Core State Standards?

Across the Palmetto State, districts vary in the process of transition and implementation of the new Common Core State Standards. Many districts are currently involved in writing curriculum guides to support the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Likewise, many schools and districts are also involved in creating common grade-level assessments that support the critical-thinking, problem-solving approach found within performance tasks.

Schools in South Carolina are also placing a greater emphasis on integrated units through problem-based learning. Within this approach, for example, teachers are embracing the requirements of the curricular shifts by emphasizing tier two and tier three vocabulary as well as text-based evidence and research found within nonfiction text. In math, rather than seeking a single, correct answer, students must be able to interpret a problem, gather information, identify solutions, evaluate options, present a solution, and defend their answer. There also is a greater presence of 1:1 devices and interactive whiteboards so that students, even in the earliest grades, can work to gain the necessary skills to use various technologies as a way to extend their thinking.

In the area of professional development, the State Department of Education and other educational organizations continue to sponsor workshops and seminars at various sites across the state. This year, South Carolina ASCD also offered opportunities for educators to engage in meaningful dialogue and reflection. More recently, the affiliate concluded this year’s conference series with author Mike Schmoker, who challenged participants to remain “focused” in their efforts to bring about increased student learning and continuous school improvement.

What part of implementation is going really well in your state?

Implementation of the standards is occurring in various ways across the state. Some districts have utilized their instructional coaches to facilitate implementation. Some districts are depending on content coordinators to lead these efforts and others are beginning the process at certain grade levels and in pilot schools. Regardless, as educators look vertically and horizontally across the standards, a greater emphasis of rigor is consistently acknowledged. Therefore, collaboration and professional dialogue of what is required for students to become college and career ready has increased.

What are some challenges of implementation that your state is facing?

Generally, some of the challenges South Carolina faces in working to implement the CCSS rest in the limited number of personnel at the state level who are prepared to adequately train district coordinators who, in turn, work directly with classroom teachers. Specifically, educators continue to raise questions that center on the new test. What is required to prepare students, particularly those with learning or language needs, for the new format? Additionally, many districts and schools have limited technology; every school does not have the necessary number of computers to properly assess students within a specific window of time.

Can you share with us some tools that you’ve found helpful for implementation?

Educators are searching high and low for meaningful resources to support the implementation of the new standards. ASCD and other websites, such as Pinterest, Teacher Pay Teachers, The Teaching Channel and more offer wonderful strategies and resources. Additionally, some texts commonly suggested are Pathways to Common Core, Focus, The Core Six, and Nonfiction Matters. The South Carolina State Department of Education provides several resources on their website.

What advice would you give to educational leaders working to implement the standards?

When working to implement the CCSS, it is important to remember that Rome was not built in a day; take baby steps. As educational leaders, we must give our teachers time to work through the process of understanding what is required from the standards. We must allow them to collaborate, and provide timely feedback on the units and lessons they create. All along the way, we must support their efforts, encourage risks, and celebrate success.

14 COMMENTS

  1. I believe my biggest challenge is reading and implementing the common core. We have our administrator to help implemented the common core, however, we are learning as we go. It would be very helpful to have a learning coach like you talked about and to show up how to do things. I feel like my

  2. I believe my biggest challenge is reading and implementing the common core. We have our administrator to help implemented the common core, however, we are learning as we go. It would be very helpful to have a learning coach like you talked about and to show up how to do things. I feel like my lost in the new format of the test and new way teaching math.

  3. I am a first grade teacher in the state of Wyoming. We are also working to implement the new Common Core Standards. At this point, our district is working to find programs that are going to aligned with the new standards. As a school we are working in grade levels to see how our current curriculum aligns. We are finding that it does not align for the most part.
    I agree that implementing reading with the new common core is the most challenging part. I am doing just fine with math and meeting the standards.
    I find myself using Pinterest, Super Teachers, and Teacher Pay Teacher. I found these websites very useful.
    Marissa, I am looking forward to exploring the EduCore tool website that you advised someone else to use.

  4. It is nice to hear how other states are starting the implementation of the common core. I live in the state of Illinois and it seems we are pretty much on the same page as the State of South Carolina, at least in my district. A few summers ago we began working on the implementation of the common core. A group of teachers met with Joe Crawford. He wrote the book, “Aligning Your Curriculum to the Common Core”. His approach is all about “Power Standards”. Power Standards are what a district/grade level decides are the most important standards to be taught to students. He feels not all the standards can be taught in a year so instead of rushing through all of them, it is more effective to go deeper on less standards. However, our district has adopted a new common core math curriculum this year so we are not going off of what we had originally created. We are now in the process of adding to our work done a few summers ago by going deeper to match all the standards to the ELA and Reading Common Core Power Standards we chose and entering objects, resources, and timelines for what, when, and how standards will be taught into an online program called Rubicon Atlas. I think the advice given on taking baby steps is great advice. This is going to take time and there will be a lot of changes to teachers work along the way.

  5. I have to agree with the statement that Rome was not built in a day. As educators we need to come together to decipher what to target first with Common Core. Collaboration and reflection among colleagues will be imperative for the success of Common Core in any district. Being provided with amply amounts of time to meet, as PLCs is essential for teachers, we need to support each through the transition into Common Core. It will be even more important to share ideas and work together to develop new strategies to help students be successful. Patience and flexibility will need to be understood by teachers and administration. There needs to be an overall open-mindedness nationwide in order for students nationally to be successful.

  6. Because our school district decided to start the implementation of the CCS in the middle of the school year, the challenges are many. We attend grade level meeting once a month and disect one standard at a time. We bring resources, teaching strategies, and ideas to the table. The challenge is that change can be hard. Another challenge is finding and/or creating resources that are data driven, effective, and line up with the CCS. We are all pulling resources from any available area such as Teacher Pay Teacher, Super Teacher Worksheets, and Pinterest and waiting until other curriculum is written. I can not understand why the Common Core Standards are being used before books and other resources are developed. With that being said we need funding to puurchase new curriculum and materials that line up with the CCS. Teachers already spend a lot of money out of pocke to purchase materials for our students/classrooms. We are now faced with the challenge of spending personal dollars on resources that line up with the Common Core Standards.

  7. I teach in Florida and we have been transitioning into Common Core for the last few years. The Department of Education started having conferences to focus on what we are expected to implement in 2014 in 2011. So just to paint a picture we started taking baby steps before actually rolling over from the FCAT. Most teachers are required to attend Common Core professional development to learn about the practices and guidelines used for testing. One of the main things they focused on the different levels of concepts taught in each grade level. One thing I felt was beneficial was the fact we got to go to our different department meetings to gain knowledge on what to expect. On the other hand the county I teach in also had some professional developments to assist us with Common Core. These professional development have enlighten the overwhelming feeling for most educators in the district. Also, in our district meetings we also talked about how the transition was going to take place within the state. As far as my actual school we have been using the “best practices” now to get the student ready for what’s to come. So we are waiting for the change but I feel we have been pro-active in implementing the change now whether then waiting when it starts.

  8. I am a first/second grade teacher teaching in a public charter school in South Carolina. This is my first full year teaching multiage classroom. Getting used to the multiage classroom is one thing, however while looking a the Common Core Standards and what is expected from the students is another game. Not only am I having to comprehend and implement one grade level of Common Core Standards but two. My main concern and worry is how do I completely interrupt the standards in understanding what they are asking of me to teach my students to learn the information needed? Are there resources out there that can help me break the standards down for me to easy understand what my job is to help my students learn? Also, do you know of any articles, advice or resources that would help me in teaching these rigorous standards with two different grade levels in my classroom? I have had the privilege of going to Common Core Conferences around South Carolina with my colleagues to learn more about these standards and what is expected from the students and myself. I just need more clarification so that I have no doubt in my mind or heart that I am teaching my students what they need to learn along with having to deal with two different sets of standards in one classroom. Also, why are there not many books out yet on Common Core Standards if it was known that these standards were going to be implemented? I do use many resources on Pinterest and other sites, however I love to have a hard copy book in front of me to read, highlight and take notes in. I am just concerned and worried about my students having the information needed from me to be successful in my classroom and prepared for the next grade.

    • Hi LaQuisha,

      We have heard many educators voice similar concerns about Common Core implementation. But hopefully we have a few resources that can help!

      I would start by going to http://www.ascd.org/commoncore. That’s the main page with all of ASCD’s common core resources. As for books, ASCD has several that may help, such as “Understanding the Common Core” and “The Core Six.” You can find our Common Core books here.

      Lastly, there are some Common Core institutes that might be coming to a city nearby this spring and early summer. And there are several PD Online courses that focus on the standards at the elementary school level. I mentioned it in an earlier comment, but our EduCore tool is also a good place to start and is free.

      I hope these resources help! Please let us know if you have any other questions.

      – Marissa

  9. As teacher in South Carolina, it is nice to hear from the some one in the state dept understand that this transition is not an easy one. We have implemented Math this year and will begin ELA next year. I have found resources online and from professional development books. Our district has been working to make pacing guides, unpacked standards, and providing a workshop. I would still like to see more resources from our state’s website. There is not much information on there about the standards. Teachers are having to look at North Carolina and other states for information. I am looking forward to finding information on ASCD’s website, along with some of the others mentioned in the article and comments.

  10. Hello,

    I am currently a Kindergarten teacher in South Carolina and I feel my district has done a great job providing my school with information on how to implement Common Core standards in Language Arts, but there is still confusion when it comes to Mathematics. I know from attending district professional developments Kindergarten-2nd grade teachers are confused. Our math coordinator at the district level is also confused but I don’t think it is right to hold anyone accountable for teaching a curriculum that the State and district has not completely rapped their head around. I do believe it is my job to educate students and I am looking at different websites to do this to the best of my ability. I have spent a considerable amount of money on Common Core resources from Teacher Pay Teachers. We have had several book talks during faculty and staff meetings on books to assist with implementing Common Core standards. Pathways to Common Core is actually the first book my principal provided us with last year. I totally agree there is not enough personnel at the State level to adequately train district coordinators. My district math coordinator has been working on benchmark and designing assessment so we can understand if the students have learned what we have taught them. Just reading this blog has given me other resources to research.

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