On the national education scene, the Gates Foundation is making headlines for calling for a two-year moratorium on states or school districts making any high-stakes decisions based on tests aligned with the new standards. Closer to home, Connecticut has taken a step forward on the implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in our state because the CCSS task force has wrapped up business. Yesterday the task force held its final meeting. Two online group edits are scheduled before the final report is presented to Governor Malloy and is available publicly.
The task force was careful to write that this is not the end. The group, which worked over a three-month period on ways to improve implementation of the CCSS across the state, found that future work and focus need to occur to help support teachers and students.
The task force, made up of teachers, administrators, parents, board of education members, and State Department of Education (SDE) officials, incorporated information from their own districts, guest presenters, and from the SDE to develop a gap analysis of the implementation process. The gap analysis discovered the following.
1) The state’s action to implement CCSS and actions taken by some districts to implement were not always in sync.
2) A significant variance exists among districts in their preparedness for the CCSS and in their adoption of the best practices demonstrated by many of the most successful districts.
3) While successful districts benefitted from established benchmarks and strategic plans mapped out over several years, the realization of uniform implementation would have benefitted from a strong, benchmarked implementation plan provided by the state.
4) Through a survey commissioned by both teachers’ unions, the Connecticut Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut, teachers expressed concerns about the amount of time that they had to learn, develop, and implement the new standards since they were adopted.
5) The successful introduction of a new, comprehensive set of grade-level expectations requires clear, consistent communication.
The task force found many areas in need of improvement—two of the biggest include professional development and time. The draft report found that districts that demonstrated successful implementation “all shared a system-wide commitment to improving and growing the capacity of staff at all levels. In addition, successful districts invested significant resources in professional development positions to provide necessary time, focus and quality of skills to help all district staff manage the change.”
The group also noted that time matters, and districts that demonstrated successful implementation all devoted enough time for teachers to learn, develop and implement the standards in their classroom. Those districts provided “time for teachers to prepare units and lessons individually and collaboratively with colleagues. Successful districts provided necessary time for the development of important instructional competencies, providing early release days, late start days and paid time during the summer for curriculum writing, professional development and teacher collaboration.”
The task force members agreed that all recommendations must be evidence based, actionable, inclusive of all stakeholders, and measurable. In a consensus vote, the task force put forth numerous recommendations in the following categories.
1) Develop clear and consistent knowledge of CCSS at the classroom, school, district, and state level.
2) Provide the necessary support and training to effectively transition the CCSS into district- defined curricula.
3) Support all teachers and instructional staff in developing the capacity to master the instructional shifts that the CCSS necessitates.
4) Engage all stakeholders in a rich dialogue regarding CCSS that is marked by multiple points of interaction, jargon-free communication and a commitment to keep teachers, parents, and community members informed, and able to participate in the process.
5) Provide the necessary resources to support effective implementation across all state districts and schools.
The task force concluded that the process was a “learning continuum and recognizes that future work and focus outside of the task force need to occur.” The group recommended that more needs to be done by stakeholders in the areas of the CCSS specifically as it relates to students with special needs, providing developmentally appropriate instructional strategies to engage students, formative and summative assessment—including SBAC, simultaneous and interdependent initiatives such as teacher evaluation.
A final document will be approved over the next few days and presented to the governor by June 30.
A copy of the report will be posted on line as soon as it becomes available.
Since i watched many Task Force meetings on CT-N with interest, I remain disturbed that teachers were brought to the table simply to give the appearance that the SDE had finally met with stakeholders. The Governor’s play book and that of the SDE was to defuse the public sentiment that was building against CCSS reform movement by inviting a minuscule fraction of hand- selected teachers to a pre- arranged and orchestrated set up in order to claim that they listened to the major stakeholders and that they have endorsed their recommendations. They invited teachers to the table and then proceeded to ask the wrong questions. When our members attempted to engage a discussion on the bigger issues, they were either ignored or deflected by the designated leadership of the TF. At this most recent meeting, our teachers attempted to make room for differing opinions only to be firmly discouraged by the SDE representative : “Not really what I want but what I can live with” seems weak in light of the seriousness of the issues. Or, the chair who appeared to dismiss their concerns politely but firmly while pressuring the entire group to work toward consensus. There is no doubt in my mind that this was simply an exercise in political gamesmanship. So, I would like to suggest that CEA members either refuse to sign off on the final report (my preference) or file a minority addendum to the report stating that the conclusions of the TF are limited by the scope of its mission and do not reflect the strong feelings of our teachers across the State. Perhaps, some reference to the recently adopted new business items at the CEA Convention could be cited. I think that our members on the TF need to make a firm political statement that will be newsworthy and reflect of how our membership feels. I know I’m not alone in this as many teachers that I speak with are reluctant and afraid to speak out, but want our leadership to lead in this fight to protect public education from the continuous threat of the corporate education reform movement which places profits over what is best for our students and their trusting parents.