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Implementing the Common Core Top 3 Ways to Help Teachers

As we approach the implementation date for the Common Core State Standards, there are many who wonder what the Common Core actually means for schools and how those standards will reshape American education. To address these concerns, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute hosted another webinar focusing on the Common Core, featuring a diverse panel of teachers (moderated by Fordham’s Michael J. Petrilli) from across the nation who discussed how the Common Core has changed their schools for the better and what educators need to better prepare for and implement the new standards.
Corrine Colgan, Deputy Chief of Literacy and Humanities at D.C. Public Schools, opened the discussion by saying that the conversation surrounding the Common Core has changed for the positive in her school district. Teachers are beginning to see the benefits of these standards and how the more rigorous material better prepares their students for college. She also believes that the more professional development teachers receive, the more positive they feel about the Common Core.
Tennessee elementary school teacher Fatonia Shank echoed Colgan’s remarks on the benefits of the Common Core by sharing how her school – and by extension her state –is focusing on increasing conceptual understanding in both their students and their teachers. According to Shank, peer-to-peer professional development is the key to success, because teachers have to have higher-levels of understanding in order to properly educate their students and prepare them for the higher grade levels.
High school teacher Suzanne Culbreth added that conceptual understanding means that teachers have to learn and discover new ideas together with their students, especially in the subjects of math and science. Memorizing formulas won’t cut it anymore; to truly increase student understanding, it’s important for teachers to help them develop “grit.” Culbreth stated that the Common Core helps teachers accomplish those goals.
However, as beneficial as the Common Core has been for these educators, implementation of the standards has not been without its own fair share of stress. So what does this panel say educators need right now that they aren’t getting?

1.Teachers need more professional development. The Common Core is not a simple thing to digest, thus teacher need trained experts to dig deeper into the material and to help them understand that different content and skills are emphasized in the new standards. This is exactly what our Teacher Training Program aims to do, which is fully aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Learn More About NMSI Training.

2.Teachers need more flexibility to blend subjects together. Math, science, and English should not be subjects that are taught in isolation because, in reality, they all intersect. Math is married to science, science is married to math, and no matter what a student chooses to do they will have to write and communicate and digest complex information. This interdisciplinary approach is something that lies at the core of NMSI’s philosophy. Giving teachers the freedom to let their class analyze a science problem in an English class, or to solve a math equation in a science class, increases students’ conceptual understanding and helps them make stronger, more relevant connections, thus better preparing them for college and their careers.

3.Teachers need more resources for the Common Core. This is a point that struck a resounding chord across all members of the panel, because they do feel that teachers need help with the Common Core. Books, guides, lessons, activities – the list goes on for resources that teachers don’t just want, but need. The educational world has changed over the last few years, and they need those resources to help them adapt and be successful. Thankfully, NMSI offers a variety of free subject and grade specific lessons and activities that are fully aligned with the Common Core.

Implementing Common Core hasn’t been easy; but instead of resisting the change, those in the educational world should see the very real benefits it can – and does – have in their classrooms, as evidenced by this panel’s own experiences. One point of concession that the panel makes, though, is that it will take time for the standards to really kick in and take full effect; therefore, instead of denouncing the standards as a failure if test scores drop after the first year of implementation, nay-sayers should have patience and give teachers a little wiggle-room as they adjust to the new standards, and businesses should be doing more to help support their community’s schools.
For our part, NMSI is trying our best to train as many teachers as possible to make sure the Common Core is not too overwhelming or stressful and to ensure complete success in the classroom. We’ve already seen great results with our AP program this past school year, and the momentum is only building as we move forward into the next.