As we noted earlier in the “Five Things Teachers Need in Order to Have Common Core Success” post, more time to plan and more opportunities to work with their colleagues are two of teachers’ top Common Core needs. But finding ways to allow for this extra Common Core planning and collaboration can be hard, especially with so many priorities competing for educators’ attention.
Here are three strategies for creating more time and opportunities for Common Core planning and collaboration.
- Create school-wide “communities of support” for teachers.
“If we’re going to fulfill the promise of the Common Core, … it’s really, really critical that we build our teachers’ proficiency,” says Lisa Leith, the former Director of Accountability and Accreditation for Colorado’s Thompson School District and current Vice President of Education for School Improvement Network.
Leith notes that Appendix A of the Common Core Math Standards recommends a number of strategies for supporting students who need extra help in math. These include creating a school-wide community of support for students; giving students a “math support class” during the school day; offering after-school tutoring; and providing additional instruction during the summer.
Leith asks: Why not apply these same strategies to give math teachers extra support as well?
“What if we created a school-wide community of support for teachers around math?” she says. “What if we gave teachers a math support class during the school day?”
Schools could have fifth-grade teachers working with fourth-grade teachers, for instance, to discuss what the standards require, how to teach those skills, and how to build those learning progressions properly so when fourth graders advance, they’re ready for fifth-grade math.
What’s more, this strategy could be applied to teachers of all subject areas to make sure they’re getting the opportunities they need for Common Core planning and support.
- Build networks with colleagues in other districts.
In Kentucky, state leaders organized regional “leadership networks” for math teachers, ELA teachers, principals, and superintendents. These networks brought together colleagues from neighboring school districts to discuss common challenges to Common Core implementation and collaborate on solutions.
Amy Nolan, a special education and reading instructor in Dayton, Kentucky, describes feeling “overwhelmed” at the beginning of her school’s Common Core implementation process. But after taking part in these leadership networks, Nolan says the process is “much better, because we … get to talk with [colleagues at] other schools to see what’s going on and how they’re doing things.”
Kentucky’s leadership networks convened for a series of face-to-face meetings, but these networks don’t have to meet in person. Giving your teachers resources to expand their personal learning networks (PLNs) online or through social media also can help—and in our next blog post, we’ll offer suggestions for how teachers can expand their PLNs to help with Common Core planning and collaboration.
As elementary school teacher Suzanne Thompson noted, the opportunity to learn from one other was a key benefit of Kentucky’s leadership networks. Another benefit? “Knowing that we’re not alone.”
- Be creative.
The lack of time for Common Core planning and collaboration has forced many K-12 leaders to adopt creative approaches to make this happen.
At Tichenor Middle School in Erlanger, Kentucky, teachers were getting together every Monday after school for 45 minutes to discuss the new standards. But “just like their students at three o’clock, teachers are tired as well and their minds are spent,” said Karen Luehrman, the school’s instructional coach at the time. Together with Luehrman, the school’s teachers came up with a plan to meet for three hours during the school day for one day per month.
Teachers “would cover each others’ classes, so that the students would still get a certified teacher for that day,” Luehrman said. “We would just work in our own buildings together.” The result was an extra 27 hours of time for planning and collaboration as Tichenor teachers rolled out the standards.
All of this advice, and much more, can be found in Edivate, School Improvement Network’s on-demand, highly personalized professional learning platform, which contains hundreds of videos and lesson plans to help your staff with Common Core planning and support.
To see everything this comprehensive resource has to offer, sign up for a free trial today.