Common Core Implementation- Reflecting on the “How”


“As challenging as it must have been to write and finesse the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, that accomplishment is nothing compared to the work of teaching in ways that bring all students to these ambitious expectations.  The goal is clear.  The pathway is not.” – From Pathways to the Common Core – Lucy Calkins,


I am sure like most of my colleagues across the nation, I am spending a significant portion of my time engaged in work that will help our districts, schools, and classrooms transition to full implementation of the Common Core Standards.  I feel fortunate to work with a knowledgeable, thoughtful, and dynamic team of educators, and what I know is that every time we sit down together to evaluate and modify our plan, we get reminded of just how many pieces there are in the puzzle, and also how important this work is.  I wrote a post awhile ago focused on the “why” of Common Core and how it is essential to help educators understand the “why” and not just the “what” of the standards, but where I find I am spending most of my time and mental energy these days is on the “how”.  Leading a successful change initiative is no easy task, but what I am noticing is that asking the right “how” questions is helping us be really thoughtful in planning, designing and implementing the steps that ultimately get us closer to full implementation.  So I thought I would share the questions that so far have been driving our work.  It is a work in progress and new questions get added as needed (in fact one was added yesterday based on a great dialogue I had with some of my colleagues from other districts).  I also tried to put them in somewhat of an order that made sense based on where we have been and where we are going on this journey.

  • How do we increase awareness of the Common Core Standards for all of our stakeholders?
  • How do we build the Common Core into our work over time?
  • How will we make connections between the Common Core and work we are already doing?
  • What might get in our way of a successful implementation, and how can we plan for these things?
  • How will we build capacity of our Educational Leadership Team (district and site leaders) to lead the Common Core initiative?  What do they need to know and be able to do to be successful?
  • How will we collaborate with our teachers’ union as we move this initiative forward?
  • How will we build shared leadership and ownership of the Common Core initiative?
  • By the time we begin full implementation of the Common Core standards, how will we ensure all administrators and teachers see a piece of themselves in the work?
  • How will we plan for and deliver professional learning opportunities?
  • How do we sort and sift through all of the resources available to find the best ones that will support our transition to the Common Core?
  • How will we include what may seem as separate initiatives (i.e. technology, English learners, Response to Intervention) into a single Common Core initiative?
  • How will we modify our District assessment system and what are the anticipated obstacles?

While not “How questions”… here are two that I have asked of principals recently that have sparked good reflection and dialogue…

  • What will schools and classrooms look like, sound like, and feel like when the Common Core is fully implemented?
  • What will we no longer see in our schools and classrooms when the Common Core is fully implemented?

If  you are grappling with other  questions that are assisting you in moving the Common Core forward in your school or district, I would love to hear what they are.  While the work is all-encompassing, I believe it is good and impactful work.  It is also work that is allowing us to reach across state lines and collaborate with colleagues across the country.  Powerful stuff!