Teacher Leadership: The Pathway to Common Core Success

center for american progressThe Common Core State Standards began in 2009 as a state-led effort to measure the nation’s students against a shared benchmark. At first, the standards received broad acceptance. But as the standards rolled out–and as they continue to roll out–the Common Core has become a political football. With all of the political posturing, it’s easy to lose focus and pay little heed to the voices of the people most affected by the standards–teachers and students.

Teachers are hard at work implementing the standards each day. As such, teachers’ voices on Common Core implementation are vitally important to its success. This report describes districts throughout the country that have taken collaborative approaches between management and unions to ensure that teachers have significant voice and leadership in implementation of the Common Core.

Based on interviews and observations of the teachers in the districts described in this report, the Center for American Progress makes the following recommendations to districts implementing the standards:

  • Create teacher leadership roles at the classroom, school, and district levels.
  • Allocate time for teachers to collaborate.
  • Create systems for embedded teacher professional development.
  • Give teachers an active role in the selection and development of Common Core instructional materials.

For more information, and to read the full report by Andrew Amore, Nichole M. Hoeflich, Kaitlin Pennington, please visit:




Policy Brief: Curriculum-Embedded Performance Assessments (CEPAs)

Mcrel-LogoEducational assessments provide data that give policymakers a “snapshot” of how students are performing and serve as a means of holding teachers, schools, and districts accountable. Many contend, however, that assessments could do more to promote deeper learning in K–12 environments. One interesting possibility is the use of Curriculum-Embedded Performance Assessments (CEPAs).

Key Ideas:

CEPAs are instructional units designed to promote subject matter learning and the acquisition of skill sets while providing data that can be used for both summative and formative purposes. The ultimate goal of CEPAs is to maintain consistency between what is taught, assessed, and how teachers are prepared.

This brief provides policymakers an overview of CEPAs, gives examples of successful CEPA application at the classroom, school, district, and state levels, and suggests ways that CEPAs can improve policy-driven outcomes.

For more information, please visit:




School Turnaround Resources

school turnaround logoA redesigned School Turnaround Learning Community (STLC) site provides access to a range of free resources and opportunities for engagement focused on school turnaround in action.

A project of the Center on School Turnaround at WestEd, the STLC supports state, district, and school leaders working to improve the nation’s lowest-achieving schools.

STLC makes it easier for busy education leaders to engage with specialists and other educators on just-in-time school turnaround research and practices. The site offers interactive webinars, curated resource collections, a Turnaround in Action blog, and a vetted resource library to help you address the complexities of school improvement work.

Especially for education leaders wanting to make changes with limited budgets, be they in rural or urban settings, this site is a goldmine.

For more information, please visit:



Schools Can’t Innovate Until Districts Do

crpeCRPE, based out of the University of Washington, is focused on the complex systemic challenges affecting public education. The organization develops, tests, and supports evidence-based solutions to create new possibilities for the parents, educators, and public officials who strive to improve America’s schools.

One of their regular publications, The Lens, addresses tough issues in American education today. Recently, one of their contributors, Robin Lake, wrote a piece about the crucial role of school districts in setting up individual schools for success. Following is an excerpt from the article:

Personalized learning and Common Core Standards are the focus of most major school districts and charter school networks. Educators and parents know students must be better prepared to think deeply about complex problems and to have skills that are relevant for jobs that haven’t yet been created.

While promising new school models are showing what’s possible, innovation in the classroom or even the school building only takes you so far. Without parallel changes in district-wide systems, efforts to support an academic sea change, like Common Core, are doomed to fail. Twenty-first century learning practices demand twenty-first century systems…

For more information and to read the full report, please visit:



Defining College and Career Readiness

logo-act-printAs a result of changes in the global economy, educators, education researchers, and national and state policymakers have emphasized that students must graduate from high school “ready for college and career.” But opinions differ about what college and (especially) career readiness actually means and how best to assess it. ACT has been refining and deepening its groundbreaking research into these questions. Unpacking ‘Career Readiness‘” outlines a model of academic readiness for the workplace that includes work, career, and job readiness. Prior ACT research has often been cited—incorrectly—as proving that readiness for college and readiness for work are identical.

ACT has refined its research into the requirements for success in postsecondary education and the workplace, and this brief summarizes some of the main conclusions arising from this research. The report calls for a broad model of college and career readiness–a “life skills” framework–that supports a truly holistic picture of college and career readiness. It also focuses attention toward a future direction for assessment that takes these new conclusions into account.

Read the report and learn more about the exciting research ACT is doing to understand more about college and career readiness: http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/reports/unpackingreadiness.html


Effective Principal Practices in Action


In 2013, The Wallace Foundation identified, based on a decade of research, five practices principals can use to guide their schools to better teaching and learning. WNET, New York City’s PBS affiliate, has just released a series of five videos that bring these practices to life by showing how successful principals put them to work day to day.

The videos include interviews with principals and their staff members from schools in Florida, Georgia, Maryland and New York. They show, among other things, how these principals work to engage students and their parents, nurture teacher leaders, instill a culture of learning and delegate authority to make time for instruction. Accompanying the videos are discussion questions to help principals interested in replicating such efforts in their own schools.

Click here to see the videos: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/view-latest-news/events-and-presentations/Pages/School-Leadership-in-Action-Principal-Practices.aspx

Click to find The School Principal as Leader, a report that describes the five practices featured in the videos: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/school-leadership/effective-principal-leadership/Pages/The-School-Principal-as-Leader-Guiding-Schools-to-Better-Teaching-and-Learning.aspx



Are Higher Ed Students getting “The Big 6”?

gallupJust 3% of all college graduates in a recent Gallup-Purdue University study say they had all six of the experiences — “The Big 6″ — that have been shown to prepare students well for life and increase chances of on-time graduation. Together, and individually, the Gallup-Purdue Index finds these six experiences have a stronger relationship to long-term life outcomes such as employee engagement and well-being than the type of school these graduates attended (for example, public or private).

Following are “The Big 6” and the percentage of students in the poll who said they had those experiences in college:

63%  I had at least one professor at [College] who made me excited about learning.

27%  My professors at [College] cared about me as a person.

22%  I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.

32%  I worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete.

29%  I had an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom.

20%  I was extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations while I attended [College].

For more information, please visit:



American Opinion on Educational Standards

leadership-logoThe Leadership Conference Education Fund, Hager Sharp Inc., and ORC International have collaborated to conduct a national survey among U.S. adults about their awareness, knowledge and attitudes regarding standards in public K-12 education. The survey broadly explores their expectations of public education and also includes questions pertaining specifically to the Common Core State Standards. The research team oversampled among African Americans and Hispanic Americans to ensure representation and adequate statistical power for the analysis. They also conducted the survey in three states—Georgia, Colorado and Tennessee —to guide state-specific messaging and communication efforts pertaining to the Common Core.

Following is a short summary of the results:

-Nearly all American adults (97 percent) believe students need to be able to think critically and apply skills to the “real world” to be successful after high school.

-Nearly all (92 percent) believe schools must rise to meet the expectations of colleges and employers.

-Most (85 percent) also believe the U.S. needs consistent standards to help ensure higher expectations for students.

-Nearly three-quarters of American adults (71 percent) believe expectations in U.S. schools are too low, and half believe U.S. schools are not being held accountable specifically for the performance of students of color.

-Moreover, only 47 percent of American adults believe U.S. schools do a good job of providing a well-rounded education to every student.

-There is strong support (82 percent) for “a wholesale transformation of our education system” to ensure “long-term economic security.”

Americans are divided on two issues in education:

-Half believe there is too much testing in schools.

-Nearly half (46 percent) believe the federal government should not have a role in education.

Despite the anti-federal sentiment among 46 percent of American adults, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) believe all states should have the same standards at each grade level in math and English so students have to meet the same expectations no matter where they live. Moreover, nearly all American adults (92 percent) believe “where a family lives, how much money they make, or their race or ethnicity should not determine the quality of the education that a child receives.”

For full details, please visit:



Employer Perspectives on Competency-based Education

AEICompetency-based education (CBE) programs are growing in popularity as an alternative path to a postsecondary degree. Freed from the seat-time constraints of traditional higher education programs, CBE students can progress at their own pace and complete their postsecondary education having gained relevant and demonstrable skills. The CBE model has proven particularly attractive for nontraditional students juggling work and family commitments that make conventional higher education class schedules unrealistic. But the long-term viability of CBE programs hinges on the credibility of these programs’ credentials in the eyes of employers. That credibility, in turn, depends on the quality of the assessments CBE programs use to decide who earns a credential.

A new report by Katie Larsen McClarty and Matthew N. Gaertner of AEI addresses these concerns. Following are the key points from the report:


— Employers’ overall awareness of competency-based education (CBE) is low, but the small minority of hiring managers already aware of CBE have a favorable view of the model.

— CBE programs generally employ student-centric marketing efforts, as opposed to employer-centric marketing messages, which may help explain the low levels of employer awareness.

— Employers rooted in traditional hiring approaches express significant misgivings that targeted skill-building approaches (as in CBE) may come at the expense of more general skills. Still, two-thirds of employers think that they could be doing better at identifying students with the skill set required for each job.

— Institutions offering CBE programs should partner closely with employers to help students attain the general and specific skills they need to succeed in the labor market in a cost effective way.

To read the report:



College Preparedness Over the Years, via NAEP

NAEP-1A recent Fordham Institute study is out with a new analysis of NAEP data showing that the percentage of college-ready high school seniors has been flat for 20 years.

This is particularly disheartening given the importance placed on college readiness today. Even with flat results, there is an increasing “college preparation gap.” Following is an excerpt from the article:

To repeat: The “college preparation gap” is larger now than in 1992 even though the college preparedness rate has remained relatively flat, due to the fact that the proportion of recent high school graduates enrolling in college rose sharply between 1994 and 2009—from 61 percent to 70 percent—before easing back down to 66 percent in 2013.

So, in other words, while the college readiness rate has remained the same over 20 years, this is more worrying because the percentage of students attending college has gone up over those same 20 years.

One caveat to keep in mind about the NAEP statistics is that they are based on a no-stakes test given to high school seniors.

For more information, please visit: http://edexcellence.net/articles/college-preparedness-over-the-years-according-to-naep