Now That We Have Common Core, How Do We Implement It?

Ready or not, Common Core has arrived at the door to your classroom.  While this curriculum shift shouldn’t be a surprise, teachers still may struggle with how they will actually implement this change at the school level.  Much of the information regarding Common Core stresses content change at the district level or higher.  Change, no matter how positive, can cause stress for anyone.  However, taken piece by piece, implementing Common Core at the school level can be accomplished while still maintaining high morale and low anxiety.

It starts with the kids

When considering the impact that Common Core implementation may have on the students, it’s best to start at the source.  The Common Core Standard Initiative states, “Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before… Common Core establishes a set of clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.”  Essentially, Common Core is designed to engage students at a higher level with a stronger connection of writing skills and a deeper understanding of critical skills that build upon each other.

Impact on teachers

Carrice Cummins, author of “Celebrating Teachers: Common Core and Teachers Making a Difference,” acknowledged the goal of Common Core for students and realized that it should encourage educators to examine their thinking about the disciplines they teach.  Reflect on your subject area/grade level and assess how your current practices relate to this goal.

Piles of literature, materials from textbook publishers, and professional development workshops can turn implementation from a challenge to an insurmountable feat.  Yet, creating a Common Core classroom environment doesn’t have to be a stressful activity.  The majority of educators have found that the practices already in place simply need to be enhanced rather than completely revamped.  This is where step-by-step collaboration with faculty peers comes into effect.

Five steps to implementation

When educators present new material to students, they often are advised to take the information one piece at a time so students don’t feel overwhelmed.  The same can be said for Common Core implementation.  Martin Chaffe and Kristine Gullen, authors of “Make Room for the Common Core in Every Classroom,” look at implementation as a five-step process for teachers.

  • Best practices. It begins with simply identifying quality instruction.  Work with colleagues to develop a list, share and listen to examples of quality instruction.  Understand what great teaching is all about.
  • Expectations for instruction. With exceptional instructional skills in mind, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the performance assessments connected to Common Core.  Determine what will be assessed and which skills are emphasized the most.  This is the work that will give your lesson planning direction.
  • Vertical alignment. Familiarity with performance assessments will also lead toward proper alignment of vertical content.  Collaboration between grade levels will close gaps and improve learning as students advance.  This will also make it easier on everyone in the long run.
  • Determine change. At this point, collaborative teacher teams should begin to develop a list of instructional shifts.  Find the teaching areas that are either being ignored or minimalized.  This can be a great opportunity for those teachers in your school who do not work in the traditional classroom setting to make a strong impact on the Common Core implementation process.
  • Seal the cracks in curriculum. Identify areas where the highly effective teachers at your school can assist in critical learning.  Using all the human resources within your school will lead to closing the gaps that have been identified through this process.

The greatest thing about a school environment is the potential to work collaboratively with highly educated professionals.  Collaboration, while often underutilized, is the key to effective implementation of Common Core Standards.  Utilize the resources that are surrounding you, maintain focus on high levels of learning for students and best practices for teachers, and take the process one step at a time.

Dr. Jason Perez is the head principal at Heritage Trails Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma, as well as a faculty member at Concordia University – Portland, where he teaches Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction courses, and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he teacher Master of Education Administration courses.

Learn More: Click to view related resources.
  • Martin Chaffe, Kristine Gullen, "Make Room for the Common Core in Every Classroom," Principal Leadership, Volume 14, Number 2
  • "Common Core State Standards Initiative"
  • Carrice Cummins, "Celebrating Teachers: Common Core and Teachers Making a Difference," Reading Today, Volume 30, Number 3