The last members to ask questions at the Common Core Forum at April’s State Council meeting didn’t exactly ask questions. Sure, there were questions about separating the standards from the test, the timeline for the implementation (which was inherited), and how the standards came to be in the first place.
They shared about the work they were doing with their district. They shared that the district was finally collaborating, and they felt empowered. Common Core changed the conversation and the climate. “This is what professional development really looks like,” said one member. “For the first time in a long time, we feel like we’re moving into a leadership role,” said another. “I feel like teachers are finally taking back the profession.”
Members frustrated with what’s happening in their local district were given advice on how to make it work. Some shared that professional development included teams of teachers visiting one another's classrooms to observe colleagues observing students through the CCSS lens.
These shares prompted us to ask members how implementation is going. We’re posting their comments, some of which are featured below, on CTA’s blog page (cta.org/blog). Visit the blog, read more of your colleagues’ comments, and leave a few of your own.
ESPs and professional development
Obtaining professional development has been challenging for education support professionals. Carol Courneya, Beverly Hills Education Association, is the president of the Instructional Assistants unit. She requested CTA training for the single training paras receive during the year. She was turned down, and instead received “something that had little to do with our jobs.”
Teachers get training up to four times per year, says Courneya, and paras are not included in CCSS training. “We were thrown into the class and told to do the best we can,” she says. “I wish they could understand we’re part of the educational process — we are important to instruction and delivery. I work with a wide range of the high school curriculum, biology and earth sciences. I co-teach a modified Spanish class. Collaborating with teachers, we modify everything to meet the needs of kids.”
Three librarians host a series of library database professional development opportunities so that teachers can get familiar with the resources, and with the papers and projects that teachers can assign in tandem with the PD. Rachael Byron, San Ramon Valley Education Association, a Common Core instructional coach at Dougherty Valley High School, says she sends a weekly email that corresponds with the current topic. For example, “we rolled out the school year with Speaking and Listening, and so all my emails included teaching strategies and resources that work under this category. In November we shifted to Reading, so my emails involved teaching strategies and resources for reading.” Teachers continue working with their current textbooks and are supplementing with the database articles and other online resources. “Our students are in the library constantly, using the desktop computers and the myriad laptops we have in our COWs (Computers on Wheels).”
What parents know
One challenge is a shortage of computers, says Behnaaz Ferozepurwalla, Vacaville Teachers Association, a first-year English teacher at Vacaville High. “Our parents and students are aware of the new standards. However, they might not know the details of Common Core, what it stands for and what its criteria are.”
“Teachers are photocopying like mad and using money from fundraisers to buy units from teachers so they are not reinventing the wheel. Technology is outdated, and we will have to close the lab for certain grade levels so that we can schedule testing,” says librarian Stephanie Bacon, Tahoe-Truckee Education Association. Overall, the standards are better, though. “They mandate the development of critical thinking, clarity and elaboration of thought.” The test is the biggest frustration. “The SBAC test requires third-graders to type their answers, but that has not been part of the curriculum before fourth grade. Now second-graders will be learning to type.”
Time to collaborate and plan
“Having to implement new standards without the guidance and resource of a written curriculum has been very frustrating. Time is limited, and having to find resources to help guide me to teach those standards can be overwhelming. I didn't get my credential in curriculum writing, and to be expected to do that can be exasperating,” says Lorie Garcia, Southwest Teachers Association president. On the other hand, in the South Bay Union School District, “we were able to negotiate the return of our furlough days. Those days have been without students and are dedicated to Common Core professional development. Being able to sit with my colleagues to go over the unpacking of the standards has been helpful. We have also used that time to go over best practices and are moving our students in the depth of knowledge.”
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