Becoming a Black Belt on the Common Core State Standards

The Common Core Institute’s Black Belt Certification Hawaii cohort has kicked off to an exciting and productive start!  The learning process has begun for principals, curriculum coordinators, and teachers from a handful of charter schools who will apply the new knowledge, skills, and tools to support this major change initiative in their schools.   Kevin Baird, Chairman of the Common Core Institute, is facilitating the blended learning course.  For more information about this unique model of professional development, read my earlier blog post

Through the course of two days, full of lecture, discussion, application activities, and reflection, these are my big take-aways:

  • The implementation of Common Core State Standards is a significant change initiative.  As such, leaders need to use an organizational change approach to ensure success.  Key to this approach is addressing:  1) belief and emotion, 2) priorities, 3) scaffolds to make change simple and manageable.  Leaders need to address the emotional element of change before tackling the operational element of change.  For some people, the level of change will be greater. 
  • The vision of Common Core State Standards is college and career readiness
  • Begin by focusing on the College and Career Readiness anchor standards and the mathematical practice standards.  These practices pertain to shifts in instruction.  Think of these practices as opening the door for teachers to be creative in unit and lesson planning.  Start by encouraging teachers to:  1) increase the level of rigor through complex texts (higher lexile levels), non-fiction, and text-dependent questioning, 2) engage students in the practice of using evidence to persuade, and 3) integrate multi-modal, diverse sources of information (video, audio, simulations, etc.). 
  • Supporting teachers in this change initiative is essential to success.  The support will need to be in the form of training (don’t assume teachers have the skills), tools (simple resources and scaffolds), and time (time to understand and digest the standards, time to develop new lessons, time to talk and collaborate with peers – within and across grade levels).  The “reality” hit when we were challenged to adapt an existing lesson to address the gap between a HCPS III benchmark and the Common Core Standard and integrate the “big concepts” like text complexity, non-fiction, etc.   For many in the room, it was hard… but fun.  Experiencing this process will help the Black Belts effectively support their teachers/peers at their schools. 
  • It is not possible to teach a standard.  Rather, you teach the skills embedded within the standard.  We deconstructed a standard, following the process of identifying the learning targets and corresponding skills (knowledge, reasoning, performance, product), and matching to assessment methods. 

It was evident when we did our summary/wrap up that we all had learned a lot!  And, the process is just beginning!   Stay tuned for more reflections on our Black Belt certification journey.  I’ll leave you with a statement Kevin repeated throughout our training – “Get rid of perfect.”   It’s such a powerful and empowering statement, freeing people to try, learn, and grow.



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