Tips to Relieve Your Common Core Pain Points


ASCD Tips to Relieve Your Common Core Pain PointsBy: Ann Cunningham-Morris, ASCD Director, Professional Learning Services and Andrew Miller, ASCD Faculty

While implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), many educators—both in leadership and in the classroom—are experiencing some bumps along the way. This is to be expected, but there are some specific “pain points” that are leading to common areas of need.

Here are some of the most common pain points we see as we work with districts and schools across the country, and a few ideas to relieve them.

Pain Point: Ensuring common practices and strategies for implementing the CCSS in the classroom

Expert Tips: Of course, we want to make sure we are all on the same page in building a common understanding of what effective implementation looks like. At the start, you should understand that the standards aren’t the whole curriculum.  Then assure that your curriculum is aligned to the standards. Also, have teachers and leaders identify specific instructional practices and strategies that will be used in all classrooms. These can be schoolwide practices that are already working, as well as new practices that will support student learning. Make sure that these practices focus on teaching for understanding, and that everyone really knows how to use them with fidelity. Through modeling, demonstration and lab classrooms, and effective use of reflection and feedback, the entire team will be on the same page about what the selected practices “look like” and how to use them.

Pain Point: Using formative assessment effectively while implementing the CCSS

Expert Tips: Just as there needs to be a common understanding of instructional practices, there also needs to be a common understanding around the use of classroom formative assessment practices. Make sure teachers are integrating formative assessment for learning and checking for student understanding practices into what happens in the classroom on an ongoing basis. What the standards are requiring of students makes a balanced approach to classroom formative assessment even more important. These formative assessments should include self and peer assessment, performance tasks, projects, and constructed responses. In addition, formative assessments should support students in making the leap to apply what they have learned to new and different concepts, situations, and subject areas. Whether your state is a member of PARCC, Smarter Balance, or developing their own summative assessments, adopting a balanced approach to schoolwide formative assessments will help ensure student success.

Pain Point: Including schoolwide, collaborative, and job-embedded professional learning practices supported by teachers and leaders

Expert Tips: It is crucial that staff members are given time to learn together and to collaboratively develop units, lessons, and assessments aligned to the CCSS. These collaborative opportunities also help to build common instructional practices and classroom “look fors.” Part of making sure collaborative work is successful includes the use of selected protocols for examining student and teacher work and creating instructional decisions as a result. The use of common protocols across the school helps to build community and keep the focus on instruction and student learning

Pain Point: Integrating the use of technology effectively while implementing the CCSS

Expert Tips: It’s easy for technology integration to become fluff, rather than targeted toward effective instruction and assessment. Make sure to align technology to formative and summative assessment best practices. Use technology to increase collaboration in professional learning. Also, make sure that technology is used to enhance the common instructional practices that have been agreed upon by the professional learning community. The standards require instructional rigor that supports integrating technology tools in the classroom, so make sure you are targeting technology integration practices aligned to ensuring intentional learning. Create policies that support the use of technology as a tool for opening classroom doors, encourage collaboration and classroom visitation, and build a community of sharing and learning.

Consider adopting these tips to ease the stress of Common Core implementation. When used together, they can support one another and build a collaborative professional learning community that focuses on intentional, rigorous practices resulting in increased learning for all students. ASCD’s professional learning can help build leader and teacher capacity to make sure your district moves forward! Visit to register for the Common Core Professional Development Institutes or contact Jean Pride for more information on ASCD’s custom-built solutions.


  1. Great blog post! The Pain Points and Expert Tips you raise are spot on. The first one is particularly challenging, specifically in terms of making sure your teacher evaluation system is supporting instruction for the Common Core. One resource that may help with this ‘pain point’ is a new set of free, downloadable “grab, customize, and go” materials developed by the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders. An overview of the process the Center developed to help connect teacher evaluation and professional development is described in this Special Issues brief, Creating Coherence, found on

    • Great article. I would like to hear suggestions on parent involvement and the building of parent support for CCS. It is difficult with the political argument going around, groups with pros and cons, and other inaccurate information to build a solid support from all parents.

  2. This article was a great help in my recent graduate studies on the impact of Professional Learning Communities in schools. The first pain point about school wide implementation of CCES across the whole school goes hand in hand with the PLC concept. When teachers together understand that the standards we teach are not the entire curriculum it opens up an array of methods for all teachers to get across more than just subject based learning. I have found this to help foster the concept of lifelong learners.


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