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Professional Opinion

Giving Teachers and Administrators an Informed Voice Around the Common Core

If teachers don’t know the expectations, they cannot build quality instruction.

When it comes to transitioning to the Common Core, this is not the time for hesitation. There is too much at stake and too much to accomplish in the very short time before the 2014-2015 assessments are administered by SMARTER Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Of course, no one wants to hurry into a mistake that would be costly. So what do you do if you haven’t yet put all of the pieces together to transition to the Common Core State Standards?

Think about starting with three key areas: clarifying, leveraging and understanding. Following are helpful and free resources for discussing, planning and implementing the Common Core.
Clarifying the essential shifts required by Common Core

EngageNY™, a collaborative platform for educators, provides a resource for understanding the coming changes and describes in detail what is needed to effectively implement curricular changes in English Language Arts/Literacy and Math.  The CCSS establish grade level expectations and focus on instructional changes that must occur to make the standards work. The website provides the context educators need to understand the “why” behind the “what”.  Find more details at

Leveraging SMARTER Balanced and PARCC Resources

It doesn’t matter if your state adopted Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), or SMARTER Balanced. The two state-led consortiums encourage educators in all states to use their resources. The Content Frameworks from PARCC explain what teachers need to focus on for each grade level (3-11). They provide an overview of the expectations of a grade level, the focus for the year, and how to organize and prioritize instruction. PARCC’s Content Frameworks introduce teachers and administrators to the instructional requirements of the Common Core and serve as a launching pad for continued discussions after understanding the major shifts.

While lengthy, it can be helpful to have teachers focus on the pages that relate directly to their grade level. Teachers and administrators should spend time reading and discussing the specifics of each section, such as the Opportunities for In-Depth Focus section in mathematics or the Narrative Summary section in ELA, to better understand what they need to focus on now, early in the school year. Also, the Content Frameworks sections provide specific guidance for teachers as they enter the world of the Common Core.
Understanding the standards

The Center for College & Career Readiness™ offers a process for deconstructing the standards so educators can develop a deep understanding of what the standards actually mean. This enables teachers to build units of study that truly match the expectations of the standards. For example, in looking at the verbs in the standards, it is possible to see what students are expected to be able to “do,” and by identifying the nouns and noun phrases, educators can identify the “essential concepts” embedded within the standards. If teachers don’t know the expectations, they cannot build quality instruction around the standards.  Find out more at

Also, by deconstructing the standards, it is possible to develop assessments that are aligned to the Common Core and reflect the teachers’ actual instruction. The process of deconstructing standards reduces the time needed to get teachers on track and streamlines the teacher evaluation process. If the chain is broken at any point, the end product, what students know and can do, will not meet the required rigor of the standards.

By focusing on three relatively simple, and free, processes, educators can develop their understanding of the standards and their capacity to implement them. These three entry points will give everyone the voice they need to discuss, plan, implement and assess the standards. It’s that easy.

Michael Rush is the executive director of the Center for College & Career Readiness, a not-for-profit research and training organization dedicated to the improvement of curriculum, instruction and assessment to increase college and career readiness skills across the globe.