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Topic: Issue Isn't Common Core; It's Common Implementation
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Issue Isn't Common Core; It's Common Implementation
Posted: Jan 9, 2013 7:04 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's
Newspaper of Record], Tuesday, January 8, 2013.
The Real Issue Isn't Common Core; It's Common Implementation

By John Wilson

SIDEBAR: Alan Blankstein is the founder of the
HOPE Foundation and author of the upcoming
"Failure Is NOT an OptionĀ® 6 Principles That
Advance Student Achievement in Highly Effective
Schools Third Edition." Alan presents a very
timely guest blog.

At the end of a day-long meeting last year at the
National Education Association headquarters with
8 CEOs and Presidents from various U.S.
educational organizations and the Department of
Education, the underlying concerns about Common
Core surfaced. After thousands of hours, and
millions of dollars spent in successful
development of a new and improved set of
standards, there was one thing missing: an
implementation plan. This small, inconvenient
truth will surely be front and center for
practitioners over the next decade.

Passing legislation in today's political climate
is rough; but getting major initiatives
implemented consistently across even a
district--much less a region or an entire nation
- is close to miraculous. Some of the brightest
policy-makers and philanthropists are coming to
terms with this reality:

"Knowing what works plays a very important role
in school improvement, but alone it is not
enough. There are questions about building
capacity to implement what works, (and to)
measure, check, and adapt to changes."---John Q.
Easton, quoted in the October 17,2012 edition of
Ed Week.

As leader of the Institute for Educational
Sciences, Easton rejoins his Colleague Anthony
Bryk, now leading the Carnegie Foundation, in
putting money and focus behind the concept of
learning how to continuously improve. W. Edwards
Deming, who mentored me and helped us launch the
Professional Learning Community movement, would
have been overjoyed!

Yet our experience in this arena proves this
challenge to be both winnable, and totally
contrary to how most policy-led initiatives are
rolled out. For example, what we have learned
this past decade working in scores of districts,
regions, and in a province in S. Africa, is that
the first prerequisite to success is "readiness."
We define "readiness" as a condition in which
those implementing the change are both aware of
the change method to be used, and excited and
motivated to undertake it. Those implementing the
change need to recognize that they not only have
the problem but are also a part of well
as the solution. The answer is in the room, so to

When the challenge is seen as someone else's,
those involved with implementation of the
solution have little at stake and are
de-motivated. If the solution is seen as coming
from the outside, those charged with
implementation become un-empowered to do more
than bow to the external guru(s)/enforcers of the

When we apply this first principle of successful
change - readiness - to the Common Core
implementation, it is easy to see how getting
both wide-scale understanding and motivation for
implementation becomes a major challenge. Common
Core is externally driven and the "solutions" to
implementing it are generally imported.

What the HOPE Foundation has done in this and
other such contexts, nonetheless, is use that
external driver as a backdrop for then creating
internal readiness. For example instead of asking
questions like: "How are we going to implement
Common Core?," we can ask more fundamental
questions like: "Based on the research we have
all just read and discussed, what skills and
qualities do our students need to have to be
successful when they graduate?"

For a chronically low-performing school the
questions have to be modified initially to just
get people talking again: "What do you see
happening in this school?" "What do you want to
have happen?" Eventually as capacity is built,
there can be more involved dialogue, but
beginning with: "How are we going to implement
Common Core" would be a non- starter.
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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