The Common Core: 21st Century Approach for Teachers and Students

As with any new initiatives, there will be those who are against it, those who have better ideas, those who don’t believe in change and those who don’t know how to change. The launching of the Common Core State Standards in June of 2010 has stirred up some controversy. Some believe that those standards will lead to a national curriculum and a national assessment. Others believe that the Common Core State Standards will hinder the creativity of the teacher. Core 4 All believes the Common Core State Standards will create an opportunity for students and teachers to begin anew. This solid set of standards focuses on multiple literacies in English and language arts as well as in the content areas of history, social studies, science and technical subjects. It’s time to start looking at the Common Core. What would a solid Common Core curriculum look like in your professional learning community?

You have to take the lead and show people how to change. You have to become a change agent.


Becoming a Change Agent 101

Be Clear

Nothing stops a movement in its tracks faster than confusion, inconsistency and backpedalling.  Rick Dufour talks about the importance of “clarity before competence”. You must make sure you are crystal clear about the direction you are heading in order to see results. Make a commitment to begin using the Common Core Standards. Read through them carefully and as a learning team determine “priority” standards (Ainsworth, 2008). Set clear learning targets so that both teachers and students know exactly what they need to be able to do by the end of the unit. Be clear about the outcomes that the learning team will accept as evidence of mastery. If this takes a little time, that’s okay. This is vital. Be clear on commitment, goals and outcomes.

Behavior Before Beliefs

Motion Leadership: The Skinny on Becoming Change Savvy (Fullan, 2010) provides evidence and examples of change in action. Contrary to popular belief change does NOT occur because of mission statements or buy–in. So, stop talking about buy-in and start doing something! Change occurs when individuals experience something new and as a result of that experience see positive results and begin to change. A school culture will not change by talking about change. The transformation begins when individuals within that culture begin doing things differently and see the positive impact these changes have on their students.  Pick a few high yield behaviors and create new routines, systems, or structures that provide opportunities for teachers to experiment with these new behaviors and practices. In his book Influencer, Patterson (2008) reminds us that “personal experience is the best persuader”.

Positive Peer Pressure with PLT’s

Professional learning teams provide a great collaborative structure to influence through experience and modeling.  Professional learning teams are powerful engines of change. PLTs provide support when experimenting with new practices, allow teachers to see the positive results others are having, and to reflect as a team on teaching and learning.  Authentic and sustainable change occurs from colleagues working together toward a common goal and holding each other professionally accountable. The old model of change through mandate with a supervisor holding a stick is long gone. Change happens when professionals motivate and support one another. It isn’t easy. It is shift in thinking but it is the only way. Do not let your team down.

Focus on Excellence NOT Perfection

Ready, Fire, Aim” (Fullan, 2010)

Lifelong “perfectionists” make this your new mantra! It is liberating and you get a lot more work done! Once we have clarity on commitment, goals and outcome indicators it’s time to begin the work of change by doingHoerr (2005) makes the distinction between excellence and perfection. Excellence is moving forward doing the best you can to meet the needs of your students. Perfection is getting bogged down, discouraged and drained by focusing on every small detail that may impede your work. There will always be issues that need to be dealt with along the way. We must spend less time worrying about why it won’t work and begin experimenting with imperfect yet promising actions. The change process in not about finding the “magic bullet” or “perfect solution”. It is about best practice, midcourse corrections, monitoring progress and analyzing results.


We are moving away from instruction as an isolated, mysterious, and sometimes secret practice. This is a good thing and this movement helps change agents everywhere. We must be transparent in everything we do for change to occur. We must be transparent in our teaching by modeling and peer observations, we must be transparent in assessment by analyzing data from common formative assessments and reflecting on what works and learning from each other, we must be transparent and honest with colleagues by holding each other accountable for all students and finally we must be transparent with the community by letting parents clearly know what skills their children have mastered and provide evidence of that learning.

In a change effort, culture comes last not first. A culture only changes when a new way of operating has been shown to succeed… the culture doesn’t change until the end of the process. (Kotter and Cohen, 2002)

Become a change agent today by using the top 5 strategies for change!