The “T” Word: Why We Need to Give More Time to Implement the CCSS
We are four years into Common Core implementation . . . so, how are we doing? Implementing a new set of standards isn’t easy. Every time a new set of standards gets published, educators at various levels of districts and dioceses have had to crosswalk the previous standards with the new set, unpack them for concepts and skills, and consider the implications for teaching and learning. So, what’s so different about the CCSS? With prior standards implementation, it was likely that the process for doing a crosswalk and unpacking standards was done at a district or diocesan level—quite a distance from the classroom. Given the content and shifts in instruction, as well as a new format for high-stakes testing, the Common Core requires teachers to fully engage in implementation.
Curriculum development (standards-based unit and lesson design), assessment design and use (diagnostic, formative, summative, high stakes, and protocols for using results to inform instruction), and instruction considerations (teaching strategies, intentional grouping of students, resources), as well as reflection and refining teaching and learning, takes Time. Further, the idea of “implementation” as something that just gets done and when its implemented then we’re done is false. Curriculum, assessments, instruction are dynamic, not static; teachers are called to be responsive, flexible, adaptable. Which—you guessed it—takes Time.
The “T” word. When districts and dioceses adopted or adapted CCSS, they didn’t add an 8th day to the week or 10 more hours to each day. Over the last two years, Scholastic surveyed teachers regarding CCSS implementation. According to their report Primary Sources, “fewer teachers overall this year than last say that they are enthusiastic about Common Core implementation (68% in 2014 vs. 73% in 2013); teachers are now also more likely to say implementation is challenging (81% in 2014 vs. 73% in 2013) (p. 2).” Yet, 84% of teachers who have had one full year of implementation say they are “enthusiastic about the implementation of the new standards.” There is a direct correlation between teacher satisfaction with regard to implementation and the time and collaboration necessary to implement. Primary Sources goes on to say that teachers have expressed a continued need for resources and support; included is the need for additional planning time and collaboration. In fact, 78% of the teachers stated that additional planning time and opportunity to collaborate with other teachers on best practices “is critical to ensure successful implementation (p. 2).”
“Implementing the CCSS is not about thinking outside of the box. It is about transforming the box itself (Achieve, p.5).” While we can’t add days to the week or hours to the day, we can re-think how we use time. Not that we need more acronyms in education, but ELT is one that seems to be taking hold. ELT or “expanded learning time” is a phrase encountered often in Redesigning and Expanding Time to Support Common Core Implementation. Expanded Learning Time includes extending the day or number of days in the school year for the purpose of flexibly scheduling student learning time and teacher planning, collaboration, and professional development time. With regard to CCSS, it’s hard to imagine successful implementation in a district or diocese that doesn’t, at the very least, thoughtfully consider extending the day or number of days in order to successfully implement the CCSS. Ultimately, we have to recall the goal of these college- and career-readiness standards; ACT defines college and career readiness as “the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a 2- or 4-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation.”
If we choose to embrace this college- and career-readiness vision and apply it to every single student in our schools, without exception, then implementing the CCSS will take time. Teachers have resoundingly expressed the need for more time: time to plan, time to collaborate, time to engage in professional development. And, in order for students to be college- and career-ready, teachers need more time by expanding the school day and/or school year and may include modified time by late-starts, early dismissal, and/or reallocated time to include additional specialized staff in order to meet the needs of every single student in our schools. All readers of this blog are urged to read, Time Well Spent: Eight Powerful Practices of Successful Expanded-Time Schools, in which the authors speak to practices and provide examples of quality uses of time for the benefit of both teachers and students.
So, take the time to collaborate among administrators and teachers to re-think how time is used in your school, district, or diocese. It will be time well spent.