“Time has been the most significant challenge,” Litchfield Superintendent Deborah Wheeler, told the State Common Core Implementation Task Force. “It’s been a lot of decision making in a short amount of time, which has been very stressful.”
Wheeler was one of the presenters, who also included assistant superintendents from Stamford, at the task force’s meeting yesterday evening. The group is charged with making recommendations, due June 30, to improve implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Although Litchfield and Stamford are almost as different as two Connecticut districts can be, their presentations to the task force yesterday highlighted some of the same challenges and supports along the path to implementation.
Some of the areas that Wheeler identified as helping Litchfield move forward with CCSS implementation included being proactive, engaging in collaboration with other small districts, informing and engaging the community, and aiming for transparency with teachers and the community.
Wheeler said that the district has judiciously weighed the purchase of new materials. “There’s the fear that publishers are just sticking a Common Core sticker on a box,” she said. “We want to be sure we’re spending money wisely.”
Implementing the CCSS has been a big resource commitment for Wheeler’s three-school district. She said that large amounts of the district’s budget have been dedicated to the time and resources necessary for teachers to write curriculum, and that the district has had to cut back on other instructional materials.
She added that, although there’s been lots of training available from RESCs and the State Department of Education, “At times it appeared the state department was somewhat disorganized.” Wheeler said that sometimes the state’s delivery was more reactive than proactive, and that that was difficult for her district.
She continued, “The faculty really suffered through this.” She said that educators would receive one message from the State Department, and then they’d receive a followup message indicating expectations were now slightly different than previously stated. “It did cause some stress for us,” she said.
Tamu Lucero, Stamford’s assistant superintendent for elementary education, and Michael Fernandes, Stamford’s assistant superintendent for secondary education, indicated that appropriate training and collaboration have also been key for their district. They said that in Stamford’s case, much of that was made possible by a grant of $25 million from the GE Foundation. As an Alliance District, Stamford also receives additional funding from the state, which has helped the district to implement CCSS.
Fernandes said that, in addition to the essential role that grant and state funding has played for the district, “time is the variable we’re always looking at.” He said teachers could use more common planning time, and especially “more time to see each other do the work. That’s the most valuable piece.”
Lucero said that teachers have had some common planning time with others in their building, but that more collaboration across and between grade levels would be very useful.
Michael Arcano, president of Stamford Education Association, has indicated that teachers in the district could use more effective training, especially one-on-one and face-to-face training. “We are getting some of that, but we need more,” he said.
Concerns regarding CCSS implementation will be in the spotlight at the next meeting of the task force. On May 21, Abacus Associates, an opinion research firm, will present the results of an extensive survey of AFT and CEA members, indicating priorities that should help task force members in developing recommendations.