Education First provides Common Core rubric and state implementation tool
Several weeks ago, Education First—a national education policy and strategic consulting firm—released the first in what will be a series of three reports aimed at providing guidance to states as they work to develop Common Core implementation plans. Yesterday, Education First and Achieve together released the second report, a “Common Core State Standards Implementation Rubric and Self-Assessment Tool.” While imperfect, this rubric is a useful tool that can help push states thinking about standards implementation.
State policy leaders should commit these differences to memory.
Among the most useful elements of the report is Table 1, which outlines the “key instructional shifts” that ELA and math teachers will face as they begin to shift instruction to the Common Core. Drawn from advice produced by Student Achievement Partners, the guidance is simple, but more clearly outlines the essential differences between the Common Core and most existing state standards than most of the “crosswalk” comparisons that state Departments of Education have undertaken to date. On the ELA side, for instance, the authors explain that the CCSS will focus on:
- Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction and informational texts
- Reading and writing grounded in evidence from text
- Regular practice with complex text and its academic vocabulary
This very clearly and succinctly highlights some of the key differences between the Common Core and existing state standards. State policy leaders should commit it to memory.
And, even more helpfully, the authors frequently hearken back to these “instructional shifts” and push states to focus their curriculum and professional development efforts on helping teachers address those shifts in their classrooms. As states move to implement the Common Core, it’s critical that they focus on these big-picture shifts first, rather than getting bogged down in relatively minor content differences between the CCSS and a state’s previous standards, so this advice is spot on.
In the teacher evaluation section, the authors also make the important link between holding teachers accountable for CCSS-aligned outcomes and ensuring that districts and schools target professional development activities to identified gaps in teacher knowledge and skill. This link between teacher evaluation and professional development is a critical and often overlooked element of standards implementation and planning.
While the rubric is useful, there is still room for improvement.
Of course, while the rubric is useful, there is still room for improvement. For starters, while the authors claim that the rubric is focused on defining “what” states should do without delineating “how” they should go about achieving their outcomes, they occasionally miss the mark. For example, the rubric specifically demands that state with “exemplary” implementation plans, at a minimum, provide “an aligned model curriculum framework.”
Developing a curriculum framework is one way that states can help schools and teachers align instruction to the Common Core, but it’s certainly not the only way. And, given scarce resources, one wonders whether it’s prudent to encourage states to develop such frameworks themselves rather than, say, identifying a menu of high quality curricular options that allow some flexibility while also helping to align instruction around the new standards.
In addition, some indicators are unclear and may steer states in the wrong direction. For instance, the authors explain that “exemplary” states are those that plan “to connect the measures for teachers in [non-tested subjects and grades]—such as student learning objectives, adapted classroom assessments, or portfolios of student work—to the CCSS.” While it’s useful to prompt states to think about how to hold teachers in non-tested subjects and grades accountable for CCSS implementation, it might be an overreach to suggest that evaluations for all teachers in the building can be meaningfully linked to the CCSS.
On balance, however, the rubric is a useful frame that can help guide state-level implementation planning.
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About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Kathleen Porter-Magee is a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she leads the Institute’s work on state, national, and international standards evaluation and analysis.
May 16, 2013
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