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.