21 January 2014

Kentucky Educators Collaborating with Colorado Educators to Implement Common Core

After an amazing week in Colorado, I can honestly say I'm completely grateful for my job and the opportunities I have to work with educators in Kentucky and across the country.  Each morning last week as I drove to the beautiful Thompson School District Training facility, I drove toward the Rocky Mountains and past a beautiful lake.  The scenery wasn't the only amazing aspect of the week, I worked with excellent educators who all desire the same thing for all students--an equitable opportunity to learn and grow.

This meeting was exceptional because after one face-to-face workshop last summer and a full semester of virtual collaboration on the creation of a unit, teachers were again face-to-face to create new units for the spring semester.  They are creating common units around common content standards, but not scripted step-by step standardized units.  Each teacher contributes to the lessons and makes appropriate adjustments to meet the needs of individual learners in each class.  Teachers are encouraged to think beyond multiple choice tests and toward performance based assessments that will measure deeper learning.   Importantly, teachers lead the unit design and make decisions about the units; their work is facilitated by content experts from Stanford's Center for Assessment Learning and Equity. 

The groups begin by creating Enduring Understandings as learned in our work over the years with Understanding by Design.  These guiding questions serve as a driving force for the the unit of study.  The focus on larger concepts, principles, and ideas keeps us away from a focus on discrete skills alone and helps us consider ideas that will be more engaging to students.  For example, the high school English Language Arts group is looking at the impact of social media on language, and the high school science group is thinking about how humans affect biodiversity. 

Within these larger units of study Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) modules are embedded.  LDC offers an instructional ladder (with mini tasks developed by teachers) designed to help students attain and surpass the demands of the Common Core literacy standards in each subject area.  Effective implementation is vital with both LDC and larger units for teaching the Common Core State Standards.   That's why our Common Assignment Study is exciting.  We have selected top notch teachers who know how to meet the needs of their students and who are always seeking to grow as learners and professionals.

As a former teacher, I know I would have enjoyed an experience like this, so to be there in a support and leadership capacity, was interesting and invigorating in a new way.  I collaborated as a leader because leaders also have to be willing to work together to create the systems and structures we need in schools, districts, and states to support the work of teachers and the learning of students.