Checking in with Common Core Implementation in Utah


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 Executive Director of Utah ASCD Lynne Baty on the challenges and successes that Utah has had with CCSS implementation.

Utah is in the third year of implementing the Common Core State Standards. Districts and charter schools can choose their own pace of implementation, with the understanding that assessments for the standards will be in place for the 2014–15 school year. The Utah State Office of Education has worked to build capacity in teacher leaders by investing time and resources into creating expert facilitators. More than 120 statewide facilitators work during the year to design professional development experiences for their colleagues across the state. Summer “Core Academies” provide intensive professional learning experiences for more than 5,000 educators (including principals) and are held in up to 15 locations across the state each summer. These academies are focused on best instructional practices for implementing the standards for K–12. Individual local education agencies (LEAs) are then expected to follow up with ongoing support for classroom teachers and leaders.

Thus far, Utah’s implementation has been successful in its approach to professional learning and resource development. Whenever offering professional development in English language arts or mathematics, the state has been strategic about integrating the CCSS into the new Utah Effective Teaching Standards (based on the updated InTASC, or Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, standards). Utah is also developing a library of videos that highlight effective teachers in action. We will share the library during our yearly Core Academy trainings, and our goal is to continue building on this valuable resource. Our academy trainings have also helped us to develop an online learning community for secondary English language arts (ELA) teachers. Through this community, ELA teachers can collaborate with their peers as they build their expertise in both instruction and continued implementation of the standards.

Utah’s Common Core standards implementation hasn’t been without challenges, most notably the changing approach to secondary mathematics instruction. Utah is moving away from the fragmented approach of teaching Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II and toward the integrated model provided in the standards, which use a scaffolded approach. This change has been challenging for all stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, students, and parents.

Utah will continue to follow its long-term plan for full implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The implementation process is complicated; takes time; and involves curriculum, instruction, and assessment working together. It also involves the ongoing challenge of providing educators with adequate support including resources and funding.