Implementing the Common Core curriculum will be quite a conversion from the previous curriculum, however, I have some ideas for school based initiatives that can ease students, parents, staff, and the community into the changeover. The vision for the school would of course be the successful implantation and teaching of common core thorough the building. Here are some school based initiatives that an administrator could begin; first, an administrator can contact other school systems that have already started the curriculum to get information about the program.
For example, if you knew someone in Baltimore County that has already started implementing the curriculum, you could get ideas on how to initiate the transition at your school. Also, teachers and staff can visit other schools that have success with the common core curriculum. Third, once the test is over, you can celebrate student’s success by having a social gathering among the students. This can motivate student to do their best and get the reward for all their hard work.
Daily treats for the staff would also be given to the staff the week of testing. Staff celebrations can be given to the staff once testing is officially over. This keeps staff motivated and engaged in testing procedures and to push the students to do their best. Parental meetings can also be held along with common core packets that have practice test and skills within the packet so parents can understand the skills that students need to learn.
Just as Boykin and Noguera infer, Professional Staff Developments are mandatory among staff to learn to learn up to date information; “The performance of each student is monitored closely, teachers receive professional development that is tailored to enable them to become more effective at meeting learning needs…” (Boykin and Noguera) Professional developments would be mandatory and staff would report back what they learned from the meetings. Staff development with outside speakers can motivate and encourage teachers to have “self efficacy” and confidence to teach the skills to students and teach the skills correctly.
Another school based initiative that would be helpful would be to develop Saturday and Summer workshops for students and parents so that both students and parents can get practice with the common core tasks. Lastly, a letter to the students from the Principal that speaks encouraging words to them lets the students lets students know the Principal cares about how they score on the test. Rationale behind the Strategies to implement Common Core All stakeholders (administrators, teachers, community members, and students) need to take part in the initiation of common core at the school level.
Having this bond creates a partnership among the stakeholders that encourages and motivates everyone involved. Sometimes students and parents see “just another test” however, the skills and strategies presented on the PARCC assessments prepares students for careers, problem solving as adults, and college; “These new K-12 assessments will build a pathway to college and career readiness by the end of high school, mark students’ progress toward this goal from 3rd grade up, and provide teachers with timely information to inform instruction and provide student support” (http://www. arcconline. org/about-parcc). Parents and even the students will see the “big picture”. Challenges implementing Common Core Challenges will always slow down progress, but not necessarily stop the evolution of common core within the school infrastructure; “For educators trying to gain traction in their efforts to close the achievement gap, it is important to note that the obstacles they are likely to encounter in high-poverty urban and rural districts will be very different from those in more affluent suburban districts” (Boykin and Noguera).
In a district such as Baltimore City, there will certainly be challenges. One of the many challenges administrators foresee is parental involvement. Parents are busy with work, transportation issues, or even other children in their care. Sometimes parents want to be involved but issues may arise. Also, parents may not fully understand the language of the test, or even the test for that matter; “For the longest time, the strongest predictor of academic success in school has been family income combined with parents’ level of education“(Graham, Linda).
A vast majority of our parent had some high school and or finished high school. The minority of our parents or college educated. Another challenge that may arise is student attendance. ; “When combined with other indicators-attendance, graduation rates, SAT and ACT scores, the number of remedial courses in college-school districts can obtain a reliable indication of how well they are preparing students” (Boykin and Noguera). If students are late or absent, they miss valuable kills being taught. Lastly, some teachers may be resistant to the change in the curriculum. To remedy the challenges identified, I have some suggestions. Parental involvement may be hard for schools to acquire, but holding the parental workshops and parent development meetings can address skills and tasks that their children will need to know and are currently addressing in class. Parents can also get extra practice with skills just in case the students need help with home assignments.
Parents will be equipped and have the skills needed to assist their children with home assignments because of their attentiveness of the workshop. Student attendance can certainly become a detrimental and problematic predicament for schools. For students with perfect attendance, an “AttenDance” would be given monthly. An hour before school would dismiss, students with perfect attendance would conjugate in the gymnasium for a dance to celebrate their attendance triumphs. Cake and punch would also be served for students to enjoy.
Also, students with perfect attendance could be given monthly pizza parties or even special gifts from the principal. The motivational technique will motivate students to come to school every day and on time. For teachers that are resistant to change may feel different once they attend proper professional developments to aid teachers is teaching the curriculum. Teachers must attend monthly professional developments so they can be kept abreast of the teaching current techniques and strategies.
Another approach I would use to motivate teachers having teachers visit and speak with other schools that already have the common core curriculum currently put into practice. Teacher’s thoughts Three of my co-workers including myself, sat down in the library and had a round table discussion about common core and the implantation of common core in Baltimore City Public Schools. The teachers were all “seasoned veterans” (meaning each teacher had more than 10 years of teaching).
Mrs. Cooper, a third grade teacher that taught for 15 years, stated that she “has been through so many changes in Baltimore City as far as assessments and it does not even faze me anymore. This too shall pass. I have been through the CAT test (California Achievement Test), The MSPAP (Maryland State Performance Assessment Plan), and now we are doing the PARCC assessment. It’s a reason why they keep changing these assessments. It’s all about politics and oney”. Mrs. Anderson, a fourth grade teacher agreed and added “I still don’t see how this will benefit all students. As I am teaching the common core curriculum, I am finding that my students are more frustrated than engaged. I think that the first and second graders will grasp on to common core better than the current third, fourth, and fifth graders because they will have the pre-requisite skills needed to perform the PARCC Assessment task.
Our current MSA grades (3rd, 4th, and 5th graders) are frustrated and aggravated about the tasks that you have to perform and the writing piece, especially in Mathematics”. “Well, I can see the benefits of common core, but I hate how Baltimore City expects us to teach MSC (Mandatory State Curriculum) and teach common core to prepare the kids for this new assessment, then on top of that we have to be experts while they train us to teach common core”, added Mrs. Jones, an aggravated fifth grade teacher.
I asked the ladies; “What types of support would you need for the implementation of common core in your classrooms”? Mrs. Anderson replied “I would attend professional developments that are actually meaningful and able to help us”. Mrs. Jones stated that “She would want someone to come in her classroom and model lessons”. Mrs. Cooper said that she “just wants lesson sets to have clearly written teachers guides with lesson sets and work samples”. Based on the teacher interviews, teacher readiness and acceptance will be an issue.
I think that a solution would be again, sending the teachers to proper professional developments so that they can become familiar and get comfortable with the curriculum; “Moreover, professional developments at the school prepared teachers to deliver instruction that emphasized factors such as quality teacher-student relationships, student improvement, cultural relevance, and critical thinking” (Boykin and Noguera). Once that comfort level occurs, the teachers will feel comfortable with teaching the curriculum to the students. The teachers’ statements just echoed my school based initiative to aid in the implementation of common core.
I also had a chance to speak with Mrs. Lewis, a parent volunteer that comes to the school daily. Her husband is a truck driver, while she is a housewife and mother of 2 students that attend our school (a third grader and a first grader). I asked her how she “felt about the common core curriculum and the assignments that her children bring home”? She responded; “I am glad I volunteer here, because when I don’t understand something, I come ask y’all”. I asked; “Do you find the parent workshops helpful”? She replies; “Sure, when I can make it”.
I asked; “Do you think other parents find the parental workshops helpful”? She answered; “Yea, they do. A lot of that stuff y’all teaching, we had that like, in middle school. We can’t remember how to solve the problems, especially in Math”. This parent just confirmed what again, was stated within my school based initiatives for common core. Having parental meeting and workshops can help a lot with getting everyone on accord for common core. In turn, this could motivate the parents, which can motivate the students, which can drive instruction and moreover, raise student achievement.
Technology challenges and the solution Many schools have challenges getting access to technology (desk top computers, ipads, laptops). As an administrator, you could assessable a team of people to write a grant for computer. The grant writers would create a presentation for companies or potential school partners. Within the grant parameters, we would ask for computers or for the funding of a new lab. The partnership with community supporters would ensure students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders that the students’ education is valued and will continuously be supported.
If the lab is granted, the lab would be open before school and after school for parents and students that do not have internet access at home, but need to do research and finish school assignments. Also, technology can be included in the school resources for students. The rationale behind including technology classes as resources would prepare students for taking the PARCC Assessment; “New ideas, technology and approaches will be needed if we are to contend with unknown challenges of the future and achieve some form of progress” (Boykin and Noguera). It also keeps students technologically astute and current.
The parental developments and parental workshops would be held in the technology lab so that parents can grasp computer skills and simultaneously work on the common core skills and PARCC Assessment tasks. Social justice. Will we be able to meet all needs? In closing, is the common core curriculum the end all be all? Meaning, will it close the achievement gap and concurrently keep students engaged while getting them college ready and career ready? There are pros and cons to everything and the common core curriculum is no different. On one hand, it does get our students ready by given the student’s real-world scenarios and tasks to solve.
However, are we “normalizing” our students by inferring a form of racism amongst African American and Latino students? When failure become “normalized” or accepted, meaning they are excepting a certain racial group of children to fail, that it a form of racism, because that’s categorizing a specific population without understanding the background or reasoning behind the failure; “In such communities, the failure of students of color can become normalized as educators and others rationalize and accept low performance as the byproduct of factors they cannot control” (Boykin and Noguera).
It’s a double edged sword. We want students to learn, but if we typecast students to only things they can relate to, what happens when they take standardize test such as the SAT, ACT, or even the Praxis to become a teacher. What a conundrum we find ourselves in however, if common core does close the achievement gap, then maybe our students will have a fair chance to compete in the real world for careers and academics.