Getting Your School Ready for CCSS
As the 2013-14 school year rapidly approaches, many districts are getting ready to fully implement the Common Core State Standards. Among other things, this means researching the CCSS, training teachers, rewriting curricula, preparing for online assessments and educating parents about the changes that their children will see in school. Each state and district has taken a slightly different approach to its preparations, but there are certain things that every district needs to do to make sure it is ready to meet these new academic expectations. If your state has adopted the CCSS, then your district is likely well on its way to implementation. As you continue to prepare, be sure to check these items off your list: 1. Evaluate technology The assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards are slated to be released during the 2014-15 school year, and they will be administered online. Both the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium have released minimum technology requirements for school districts located in states that will be using these tests. Evaluate your school’s current technology to make sure it is compatible, and begin the process of making upgrades if it is not. 2. Review curricula Another important component of preparing for the Common Core State Standards is updating curricula. Contrary to claims by critics, CCSS is not a curriculum. Rather, it is a detailed list of academic goals and guidelines that should be met at each grade level. It is up to school districts and teachers to develop curricula that will help students meet those requirements. 3. Find similarities Just because curricula must be aligned with the CCSS doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be completely revamped. Many school districts may find that there is significant overlap between current curricula and the Common Core State Standards requirements. Work with teachers to evaluate their curricula and identify any similarities between the standards and what teachers are already using. 4. Identify potential gaps Of course, not everything will overlap – there are likely to be some gaps between current curricula and the expectations of the Common Core State Standards. Some students may find as they make the switch that something they were supposed to learn in 5th grade is now a learning standard for 4th graders. Develop a game plan for addressing these instructional gaps so students don’t feel overwhelmed or left behind. 5. Distribute information Change can be scary when you don’t have a lot of information, so make sure that parents and community members are clued in on what the implementation of the Common Core State Standards will mean for students. This could mean sending home informational materials, presenting at school board meetings or holding seminars and workshops about the CCSS that are open to community members. 6. Provide teacher training Of course, teachers will need significant training when preparing for the Common Core State Standards – the more prepared they are, the smoother the transition will be. Some states are offering summer institutes, having teachers participate in in-depth training sessions, while others are opting to have administrators hold workshops throughout the school year. Whatever the approach, it’s important to make sure teachers have the support and information they need as they make the transition. 7. Update materials As you prepare for the Common Core State Standards, you will likely find that your school district’s computers aren’t the only thing that’s out of date. Many textbooks are also being updated so they align with the CCSS. Some school districts are also opting to use e-books or adaptive learning programs to move instructional materials to the digital realm to reduce the cost of updating them in the future. 8. Consider different approaches Because teachers will be reworking their curricula so it meets the CCSS, this presents the perfect opportunity for them to consider different approaches to instruction. For example, some schools may consider using one of the many blended learning models, combining online learning with face-to-face instruction. 9. Prioritize If you try and make all of these change at once, it’s a pretty sure bet that you and your staff are going to feel overwhelmed. The Common Core State Standards are one of the largest overhauls of the U.S. education system in decades. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, prioritize changes that need to be made and set a timeline. Ask for teacher input and check the boxes off one at a time. 10. Encourage collaboration There’s no rule that says school districts have to go at it alone. Encourage collaboration among teachers between districts, subjects and grade levels as they prepare for full implementation of the CCSS. The more information that’s shared, the less intimidating the change will be for all involved. What else is your school district doing to prepare for the Common Core State Standards? Share your experiences with us!