For school districts across the Capital Region and New York State, the transition to the Common Core Learning Standards as part of the federal Race To The Top initiative will be one of the most challenging undertakings since No Child Left Behind. This year will be especially intense, as 12 "shifts" in curriculum and instruction are required to be completed by the end of the school year.
That is why a core team within BOCES Instructional Services is hard at work to keep school districts informed with the latest Common Core news and information, as well as provide district staff with training and guidance throughout the Common Core transition process.
The overall goal of the Common Core State Standards (CCLS) is to provide a clear and uniform understanding of what students are expected to learn. Developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts, the Standards draw upon the most effective curriculum models from across the nation and the world. They fully align with college and career expectations, and include rigorous content that requires students to use critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving.
New York State's Common Core Learning Standards are a direct reflection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which you can read more about here.
There are 12 shifts the Common Core requires of school districts for curricular materials and classroom instruction to be truly aligned with the Standards. There are six shifts each in English Language Arts/Literacy and Math.
Overall, school districts have until September 2012 to complete the Common Core "shifts" in ELA and Math.
Making sure a school district's curriculum complies with all 12 shifts by school year's end presents some unique challenges, the most significant of which will be coming into compliance while preparing for this school year's state tests at the same time.
Experimenting with new or revamped units of study based on the 12 shifts will be an intense process -- one that BOCES Instructional Services staff members Jennifer Wells and Susan Yagielski are ready and willing to help with.
"The fact that state tests are still based on the old standards this year presents the biggest challenge: School district staff must implement the 12 shifts, but they can't lose sight of the old standards, because they must prepare their students for the tests based on those old standards," said Wells, BOCES' instructional ELA coach. "That's why some school districts are getting creative with the way they tackle implementing the shifts."
For example, the Albany City School District will create a unit this semester that builds upon a current unit plan that focuses on a high-leverage Common-Core Learning standard. They will then wait until after the state tests in Spring 2012 to craft a second Common Core-ready unit that introduces a completely new topic of study( the topic could be integers, for example) in Grade 6. Further, some school districts are fully implementing the shifts in grades that are not yet subject to state testing, such as grades K through 2.
Implementing the 12 Common Core shifts is very important, but district staff have certainly not failed if they do not quite get it right the first time, said Susan Yagielski, BOCES' instructional math coach.
"We want to make sure schools understand that you're not going to be creating the perfect Common Core unit right out of the gate -- with so many demands on instructional time already, it may not be possible," Yagielski said. "You're just going to try it out, and expect to hit a few road blocks. But not to worry: Everyone is in the same boat. The good thing is that districts can help each other through this process, and come together through BOCES."
District staff members are strongly encouraged to attend two upcoming trainings in October that Common Core Learning Standards. The first takes place Oct. 25 at Ellis Hospital (register here) and the second is Oct. 28. (register here).
To learn more about how BOCES can help your school district implement the Common Core Learning Standards, contact:
Jennifer Wells, instructional ELA coach: 464-3924, firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Yagielski, instructional Math coach: 464-3922, email@example.com
You can also visit the website