Getting Ready for Common Core: A Playbook for K-12 School Districts


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School districts across the country have a lot of work to do before the shift in evaluations takes place, education experts, administrators and teachers themselves contend. And, they say, there’s no time to waste.

Here’s how your school district can move forward with an action-based strategy for Common Core.

Visit for more information on Blackboard K-12.

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Getting Ready for Common Core: A Playbook for K-12 School Districts

  1. 1. Follow @BlackboardK12 and join the #CommonCore conversation.Getting Ready forCommon CoreA Playbook for K-12 School Districts
  2. 2. Getting Ready for Common Core 2Four Steps Every SchoolDistrict Should FollowReady or not, Common Core is coming. The national educational standards forK-12 schools will officially debut in the 2014-15 school year. That’s when currentstate tests will be replaced by assessments that gauge whether students haveacquired the deeper language arts and math skills that Common Core aims tocultivate. But it’s not as simple as switching to a new test. Common Core is anew way of teaching and learning.School districts across the country have a lot of work to do before the shiftin evaluations takes place, education experts, administrators and teachersthemselves contend. And, they say, there’s no time to waste.Here’s how your school district can move forward with an action-basedstrategy for Common Core.
  3. 3. Follow @BlackboardK12 and join the #CommonCore conversation.Getting Ready for Common Core 3Step 1.Don’t startwith a cleanslate.
  4. 4. Getting Ready for Common Core 4Common Core is a different approach to education with differentmeasurements of success. But that doesn’t mean your school district has tostart from scratch. Many teachers already teach the 21st century skills at theheart of Common Core.Praise best practicesSchool districts need teachers to be on board with Common Core, and that’swhy it is essential to highlight ways in which they already are meeting thestandards, says Stan Silverman, director of Technology Based Learning Systemsat the New York Institute of Technology, one of the longest-running K-12professional education networks in the country.“A key first step is to look at good practices of the past, andjuxtapose those against Common Core,” Silverman advises. “Don’tdemean work that teachers have been doing well for years.” Demonstratingthat Common Core is fundamentally about strong teaching that promotes deeplearning will encourage teacher buy-in, he says, and make the whole processseem less daunting.
  5. 5. Getting Ready for Common Core 5Don’t reinvent the content wheelAnother big part of getting ready is compiling course materials that meet thestandards. Some can be brought in. Textbook publishers have been workingtoward Common Core for a few years, and educational resource providers likeKhan Academy offer a wealth of materials and lesson plan ideas that meet thestandards.Encourage teachers to share these resources—and the ones they create—usingan open content repository like the cloud-based, cross-platform BlackboardxpLor. By taking advantage of great ideas that are already out there, teachersnot only save precious time but also better ensure they are rebuildingcourses in line with standards. In addition, encourage teachers to use onlinecollaboration tools to share the workload of producing materials specific toyour district.
  6. 6. Getting Ready for Common Core 6To prep for Common Core,Cobb County shows and tellsIn Cobb County, Georgia, teachers can check out CommonCore in action in 36 “laboratory” classrooms—by either visitingin person or logging into video feeds or recorded BlackboardCollaborate sessions. The starring teachers are veterans whoseclassroom practices already yield the critical thinking thatCommon Core promotes.“We knew we would have to show our teachers what CommonCore looks like,” says Christine Osborne, an online learningspecialist in Cobb County School District’s professionallearning division. “This has proved to be a great way to do thatwhile also honoring outstanding teachers who are models ofsuccess.”
  7. 7. Follow @BlackboardK12 and join the #CommonCore conversation.Getting Ready for Common Core 7Step 2.Train withefficiency.
  8. 8. Getting Ready for Common Core 8Teachers are extraordinarily busy. Now, on top of teaching classes, planning lessons,grading papers, and tutoring kids, they need to get trained on the new standards.And districts are behind. Less than half of districts that will implement CommonCore had planned related professional development in the 2012-13 academic year,according to a survey by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy.“It’s a really different way of doing things, and teachers are anxious,” Osbornesays, adding that the anxiety is compounded by other factors like budget cuts andincreases in class sizes. Those budget cuts have squeezed districts’ training funds aswell. For all those reasons, Common Core training must be efficient and effective.Keep teachers in the classroomCobb County is an exception. It has spent three years getting teachers readyfor Common Core. Collaborative online training sessions and video feeds are anessential part of the training strategy. Leveraging technology helps the district reachteachers wherever they are and when they have time to learn, Osborne says. Theultimate goal, she says, is to conduct 90% of Common Coretraining online.
  9. 9. Getting Ready for Common Core 9Understand training trendsThat’s in line with what the newest generation of teachers will want, accordingto a 2013 survey by Blackboard and Project Tomorrow, a nonprofit educationalresearch group. Nearly 50%of students studying to be teachers use onlinepodcasts and videos and turn to social networking sites to train for futureteaching assignments.Silverman says technology-enhanced training offers cost-cutting convenienceand also enables ongoing collaboration. For example, third grade teachers fromacross an entire district can regularly come together online to create materialsand share best practices. Such collaboration gets the work done efficiently,and it also builds a network of continuous support, Silverman notes. In the highstakes environment of preparing for Common Core standards, he says, givingteachers a way to consistently connect with peers helps them feel less isolated.
  10. 10. Getting Ready for Common Core 10Pinellas increases savingsand teacher satisfactionwith online trainingThe Pinellas County Public School District employs more than8,000 teachers in schools spread across the Florida county’s280 square miles.Teachers used to drive to a central location for training; sometraveled for an hour or more. Administrators wanted to spendless on mileage reimbursement, and teachers wanted to spendmore time in their classrooms.The district began using Blackboard Collaborate to facilitatevirtual training on everything from data analysis to nonfictionreading strategies. Today, teachers sitting in their classroomsin dozens of different schools can train together on the samematerial.Source: Case Study—FloridaK-12 Schools Succeed withBlackboard Collaborate
  11. 11. Follow @BlackboardK12 and join the #CommonCore conversation.Getting Ready for Common Core 11Step 3.Keep parentsinformed.
  12. 12. Getting Ready for Common Core 12School districts know that parents are an important part of the Common Coreprocess. Two moms in Indiana have shown the power of pushback: They’ve led acampaign to derail implementation of Common Core.Districts must communicate regularly with parents and other members of thecommunity who will see changes in how children are learning, Silverman says.“Let them know what’s happening, when changes will takeplace, and where to go with questions,” he advises. “And warnthem that individualized learning, where students are completing different taskssimultaneously, may appear chaotic.”Deploy digital communicationsOnline and mobile tools are clearly the way to keep stakeholders informed, hesays. Websites, social media, texts, and emails are essential for keeping in touchwith working parents, and communication management tools ease the logistics.
  13. 13. Getting Ready for Common Core 13School principals agree. More than 80% want any new teachers they hire touse digital tools to connect with students and their parents, according to theBlackboard and Project Tomorrow survey.And parents want a digital connection, too. No matter their child’s grade level,parents want to receive school communications electronically, Project Tomorrowresearch shows. Most parents prefer the simplicity and mobility of text.Parents prefer digital school-to-home communicationsMobile AppParents of Students Grades 9 – 12Parents of Students Grades 6 – 8Parents of Students Grades K – 5© SPEAK UP 201338%13%23%39%14%24%36%17%25%Text Messaging Facebook
  14. 14. Getting Ready for Common Core 14Cobb County has a Common Core button on its website homepage that linksparents to bilingual information about the standards and the district’s rollout.Some individual schools have conducted Blackboard Collaborate webinars forparents and then posted those sessions for anytime, anywhere access.Get ready for a barrage of questionsMany parents aren’t yet aware of Common Core. Getting online tools in placetoday ensures smoother communication when their children start cominghome with new assignments and are graded on new standards. Plus, it startsan ongoing conversation with parents about expectations and how to measuretheir kids’ progress.
  15. 15. Getting Ready for Common Core 15Palm Beach amps upcommunication toengage parentsPalm Beach County School District uses Edline by BlackboardEngage—a web-based communications solution for K-12schools—to strengthen the link between administrators,teachers, parents, and students.Parents (and students) get email alerts or log onto a portal toget the latest on everything from standards updates to clubschedules to homework assignments and grades.The secure email notifications foster better—and faster—communication between teachers and parents. For example,parents find out early if their child is at academic risk so theycan get involved right away.Source: Case Study—PalmBeach County School District:Accountability in Schools Takes Holdwith Web-Based Communication
  16. 16. Follow @BlackboardK12 and join the #CommonCore conversation.Getting Ready for Common Core 16Step 4.Have the righttools in placeearly on.
  17. 17. Getting Ready for Common Core 17The right technology tools will ease the transition to new standards for allstakeholders—from administrators and teachers to students and parents. Andthose same tools can increase your district’s chances of success once CommonCore is in place.Gear up for teacher successFor teachers, the right learning management system and online collaborationtools can enable cost-effective and convenient training on the new standardstoday. And they can help your district create a culture of continuousimprovement and collaboration that will yield excellence in the Common Coreclassroom.In addition, by conducting professional development via educational techtools, teachers learn—and learn to embrace—the same technologies that theirstudents will use for the digital learning strategies Common Core requires. It’spart of the transformational shift promised by Common Core: changing theway teachers teach starts with changing the way teachers learn.
  18. 18. Getting Ready for Common Core 18Finally, the right technology tools can help teachers meet the dailyrequirements of the Common Core classroom:• Creating a personalized learning path for each student• Aligning content pieces and assessments to the new standards• Reporting on student progress against the standards• Assessing and assisting at-risk students with accuracy and speed
  19. 19. Getting Ready for Common Core 19Boost students achievementCommon Core’s digital learning requirements are designed to enable studentsuccess in the classroom and beyond. To achieve that success, students needtools that help them learn more—and learn more efficiently; prepare them for newassessment techniques; and allow them to track their own progress.Under the new standards, most summative assessments will be conducted online.So students need to understand tech tools before they log in for their first test.Online formative assessments will help students get comfortable with onlinetest taking, as well as enable them to continuously evaluate their mastery of thematerial before the end-of-year test.In addition, Common Core’s individualized learning components will requirestudents to be more accountable for their academic performance. Online learningtools can help them stay organized and connected to helpful resources, as well asallow them to track their own progress through always-available assessment data,including targeted and multimedia feedback from their teachers. Students willalways know what’s required, what’s due next, and where they stand.
  20. 20. Getting Ready for Common Core 20ConclusionCommon Core is a new way of teaching and learning. And its success will bemeasured differently, too.New metrics will gauge whether students are acquiring the 21st centurylanguage arts and math skills that Common Core emphasizes. It’s a majoreducational shift, and school districts have a lot of work to do before the newstandards officially debut in 2014-15. They can get ready with an action-basedplan that leverages existing strengths and uses technology to gain efficiencyand effectiveness. With the right strategy and tools, districts can capitalize onwhat they know, train to fill any gaps, and keep all stakeholders informed asthey move along the path to Common Core success.
  21. 21. Getting Ready for Common Core 21Follow @BlackboardK12 andjoin the #CommonCore conversation.About BlackboardBlackboard Inc. is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovativesolutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learnersaround the world every day. Blackboard’s solutions allow thousands of highereducation, K-12, professional, corporate, and government organizations toextend teaching and learning online, facilitate campus commerce and security,and communicate more effectively with their communities. Founded in1997, Blackboard is headquartered in Washington DC, with offices in NorthAmerica, Europe, Asia and Australia.