Teachers faced with Common Core implementation must shift their instructional methods to align with new models for literacy and mathematics. At Pinellas County Schools in Largo, Fla., administrators are moving to a systemic professional development approach to better support staff during the transition.
The seventh-largest school system in Florida with 8,000 teachers, Pinellas is partnering with ASCD, an international education nonprofit, to design a customized program. Together they will build a team of district experts to lead research-based professional learning activities to build educators’ knowledge and understanding of the Common Core standards and integrate new instructional strategies.
“Rapid adoption of the Common Core standards has outstripped professional and public understanding of the standards and their potential for changing the learning and teaching paradigm,” said ASCD Executive Director Gene R. Carter in a statement. “It is essential that district and school leaders have the opportunity to learn about the standards and raise questions that will help guide their transition, implementation, and communication strategies.”
The district worked with ASCD to create “Leading the Learning” cadres, teams for each school that include an instructional leader (the principal), four volunteer teachers, and an ASCD faculty member. The teams will take courses online and in person on the content and pedagogy of the Common Core, and how to work with other teachers to make instructional shifts. The courses will take up to 30 hours to complete. The teams will then create a plan tailored to each school for school-based, job-embedded professional learning.
“That’s the big shift we’ve been looking at—instead of providing [professional development] in large group settings where teachers come to an auditorium, we’re trying to close the implementation gap,” says Pamela Moore, executive director of preK12 core curriculum at the Pinellas district. “We’re trying to make sure it gets to every teacher.” Because it is outside of their contractual day, the teachers receive a small stipend, she adds.
The district is also developing a new evaluation to ensure the PD is effective, which will be given to teachers. “We can train, but we don’t have a good way of knowing the effectiveness—did people actually change their practice as a result of participating?” Moore says.