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Topic: [ncsm-members] Common-Core Work Must Include Teacher Development
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Common-Core Work Must Include Teacher Development
Posted: Feb 12, 2012 2:35 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, February 1, 2012, Volume 31, Issue 19, pp. 22-24. See

Common-Core Work Must Include Teacher Development

Standards movement must embrace teacher professional learning

By Stephanie Hirsh

SIDEBAR: "The common core will not be self-implementing-executing
this overhaul of expectations for students and teachers represents a
tremendous undertaking."
Now bearing the imprimatur of 46 states and the District of Columbia,
the Common Core State Standards represent a major step forward for
schools and the students they must prepare to graduate from high
school ready for college and careers. Yet a fundamental contradiction
underlies the progress: While we are promoting radical change in
creating a coherent national framework for what students should know
and the way they learn, we have not yet committed to offering
teachers the deep learning they will need to transform the way they
Too much of today's professional learning is not up to the task of
supporting the substantive changes required of teachers to meet these
new standards for English/language arts and mathematics-and too many
plans for supporting the transition to the common core read more like
communication plans than serious road maps for preparing educators to
teach the standards.

Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State
School Officers, one of the groups behind the common-core initiative,
made this point directly to state leaders recently when he asked
them: "What made you think you could transform teacher practice and
student learning with traditional models of professional
development?" To their credit, most states acknowledge the
contradiction as they struggle with the scope of this undertaking in
an ambitious time frame. Still, few states can say they are taking
the steps to address the challenge. That must change.

For all the investment of time and resources in the common core, we
will not achieve the outcomes we expect and need without
comprehensive professional learning for educators that supports the
new standards. The dramatic shift in teaching prompted by the common
core will require practical, intensive, and ongoing professional
learning-not one-off "spray and pray" training that exposes everyone
to the same material and hopes that some of it sticks.

For the same reasons that common standards for students make sense,
states should also adopt common standards for professional learning.
They must infuse the new standards into existing school improvement
processes, plans for professional learning, and relicensure

Because the common core focuses on the application of knowledge in
authentic situations, teachers will need to employ instructional
strategies that integrate critical and creative thinking,
collaboration, problem-solving, research and inquiry, and
presentation and demonstration skills. They will need subject-area
expertise well beyond basic content knowledge and pedagogy to create
dynamic, engaging, high-level learning experiences for students. They
will need greater data literacy as we shift from current
accountability systems to more granular ways of assessing student
learning. And, their leaders will need to champion professional
learning in their buildings and back the teachers who coach and
support each other.

Too few states and school districts act consistently on what research
has shown to improve educator practice and student achievement. And
even fewer take steps to monitor and evaluate its effectiveness.

We know from research what constitutes highly effective professional
learning and how to engage educators in it. Administrators and
teachers working together plan, execute, and assess professional
learning. It is driven by data that pinpoint what students need. It
is collective and collaborative within and across buildings, so the
quality of instruction improves consistently from classroom to
classroom and from school to school. It includes time for teachers to
learn from each other, examine research and effective practices, and
problem-solve. It demands leadership from teachers as coaches and
mentors, while continuing to tap the knowledge of outside experts and

Emerging technology holds the promise of making this kind of
high-quality professional learning more accessible and relevant to
more teachers. Platforms that facilitate shared learning, learning
analytics, and continuous improvement and evaluation systems can
accelerate the pace of change needed to put the common core into
place. Along with emerging tools such as classroom video capture,
earbud coaching (in which teachers receive real-time coaching via an
earpiece while they work), virtual classroom simulations, and online
tutoring, innovative technology can support an approach to
professional learning that addresses each educator's individual
needs, incorporates data, monitors the impact of new learning, and
supports the spread of best practices to improve teaching at scale.

For the common core to be successful, states will have to be much
more thoughtful about organizing, managing, implementing, and
evaluating these tools and strategies. State leaders will have to
work together, with consortia, and with K-20 systems to develop
comprehensive programs that deeply immerse teachers in the common
core, its related curriculum and assessment systems, and
content-specific pedagogies-and then provide ongoing classroom
support and feedback.

Education leaders must alter school calendars-both the yearly
calendar and daily schedules-to provide dedicated time for
professional learning and for teachers to collaborate on a continuing
basis. They must promote professional-learning academies and the use
of knowledge systems and other interactive technology. In short, to
meet the end goal of graduating students who are competent in the
common-core standards and college- and career-ready, states must
create a culture that supports and accelerates change, not delays and
diffuses it.

To help identify ways of establishing the needed infrastructure to
support common-core implementation, our organization, Learning
Forward, selected Kentucky as a demonstration site late last year for
a laboratory for effective professional-learning models that align
with the common core. Other states-Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire,
New Jersey, Utah, and Washington-are also part of this effort,
serving as critical friends, helping pilot and evaluate tools and
strategies to create a truly comprehensive professional-learning

Along with its commitment to the standards, Kentucky has already made
progress toward some of its key goals; for example, it is working on
organizing classwork around reading and writing in all subjects. It
has also signaled its willingness to make real changes to support
professional learning. Our work developing this infrastructure for
professional learning will also be supported by new technology and
partnerships within and beyond the seven participating states, with
support from the Sandler Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation. It is through this combination of commitment to the
standards and comprehensive change in professional learning that we
hope to see the promise of the common core come to life.

The common core will not be self-implementing-executing this overhaul
of expectations for students and teachers represents a tremendous

We hope that states will watch closely, learn from these efforts in
Kentucky, and take action, and that additional funders and
policymakers will develop strategies to inspire states to build
transformative professional-learning systems. The most powerful tools
that states and districts have at their disposal to improve teacher
effectiveness and ensure that students can meet the new standards
remain unchanged. Thoughtful professional learning is crucial if we
want to promote deep understanding of content and transformed
instruction, rather than merely aim for higher standards and hope for
the best.
Stephanie Hirsh is the executive director of Learning Forward, a
nonprofit international association based in Dallas and focused on
increasing student achievement through effective professional
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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