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Can Teachers and Administrators Embrace the CCSS?

The Common Core State Standards have evoked reactions from all walks of life and from every corner and discipline with U.S. K-12 education. Educator and author Dave Stuart Jr. has taken an approach to the CCSS that many might perceive as atypical and yet refreshing. For additional insights check out our previous interview.

Dr. Rod Berger: Dave you have tackled the divisive topic of Common Core in your practice as a teacher in your classroom. What lessons can school administrators take from your efforts when communicating the broader message and value statement to their staffs and districts?

Dave Stuart Jr.: Start with a single question: what is it that we are trying to produce as a school? Describe that ideal student: what is she like? What skills does she have? What habits? Make this as simple as you can -- in my workshops, I ask participants to boil it down to a sentence. Then it's time to look at and appraise the standards. How do these standards line up with what we're aiming at as a school? Where do they differ? 

In the case of the Common Core, I think the key aim of these standards is obvious: over 100 times, they repeat the phrase "college and career readiness." Rather than drowning teachers in the minutiae of the standards, start with this big picture: the standards aim at college and career readiness. Can we be for that? I don't know of a school that's not interested in preparing students to earn a living -- hopefully every school aims at more than that, too, but the standards help us with the earning a living part. Snip20150218_30 

RB: Are most educators speaking in global terms like you are? It would seem that taking a big picture approach, on the surface, would be increasingly difficult as we continue to get more granular with our lens on education (ex. student and observation data). Help me understand this paradox.

DS: That's a huge problem, Rod -- we need both granular and global lenses if we're to persist in, first of all, simply doing this work, and, secondly, doing the right work. Many teachers are lost (and stressed out) in a granular-only mindset. So while difficult, this type of global outlook is critical -- the outcome, in other words, is worth the difficulty that you astutely point out.

RB: What advice do you have for fellow teachers who want to engage in more productive conversations with school leadership and how have your Common Core efforts enhanced this ability in you?

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