Saturday, May 23, 2015

Collaborating for Success with the Common Core Chapter 2

Change is so hard! I really don't know why, but we fight it so much in education when we are asked to change the way we are doing something. I think partly it is because we feel so helpless to the change- we are not in charge of it at all and have little or no say in the process- we are just told to do it. And, if you've been in education long enough, you will eventually see everything cycle back around just in a different package or with different words. So, I completely understand why people are reluctant to change to the Common Core.  Especially, when our politicians at the state levels are getting pressure from constituents that don't like the Common Core because they themselves don't want things to change.  It's so political and so frustrating!
This chapter does talk about changes in expectations as people transition to the Common Core Standards.  In ELA, it talks about seven different changes:
1. Text complexity
2. Informational text
3. Interdisciplinary literacy
4. Close reading
5. Text analysis
6. Argumentative writing
7. Academic vocabulary and language
With some of these, we just need to shift our thinking a little to provide different types of activities; with others, we need to completely rethink what we've been doing.
In mathematics, there are four main shifts:
1. Fewer but more focused standards
2. Habits of mind- these are the mathematical practices standards.
3. Progression of skills and concepts
4. Procedural fluency (Right now I disagree with this one- I think we're NOT focusing on procedural fluency in the early stages of implementing the standards because we need to get them caught up on all the gaps they have because we are still transitioning to the standards from the old standards. So, I think this will come back to bite us later when we have students at the higher grades that have fluency gaps because they were some of the first classes to be taught with just the Common Core Standards.)
Again, with some of these it's just a little change in mindset, but other requires a complete overhaul of what we've done before.

The next part of the chapter is called Getting Aboard the Change Train. It talks about how this type of transitioning is a second order change- one that is not incremental but one that requires new thinking and a new direction for the school organization.  It requires a change in the culture in order to make it happen. This is what we are dealing with at our school and in our district. We are not recognizing that it is a second-order change and we're treating it like a change that just has incremental steps- the first year, Kindergarten will implement the standards, the second year 1st and 2nd grade will implement the standards, the third year, 3-12 will implement the standards. That's what we did really- we didn't look at changing the culture of our school and district as we make the shift.  And now, we're struggling because we didn't do it right in the first place...

The chapter continued on to talk about the five important steps that are needed. It is based on John Kotter's change model.
Step 1: Create a sense of urgency. People need to understand the reasons for the change and believe it will make a difference for their students. It is also important when doing this to understand and manage self-concerns and task concerns. What support will there be? What is the big picture?
Step 2: Build a Guiding Coalition. Create a team of people who have different areas of expertise that can work together to help with the implementation. As always (but it's rarely done correctly and thoroughly IMO) these teams needs to clarify their purpose, establish team norms, set team goals, define team member roles and focus on the work ahead.
Step 3: Create and Communicate a Vision. Teachers need opportunities to discuss how the envision the school if all students are to be successful with the rigorous expectations of the CCSS. Teachers need to understand why the school/district is making the change, how the change process will occur and what the expectations for each teacher or team will be.
Step 4: Empower Everyone. It is necessary to empower ALL the stakeholders!!! That's so important, but sometimes SO hard to do!  This section was interesting to me because it talks about establishing a loose-tight relationship between leadership decisions and resulting team products. The DuFours and Marzano both talk about the importance of building shared leadership responsibilities so that collaborative teams can make some, but not all, decisions. It states: "Teams are empowered to complete their work in whatever way works best for them around loose expectations but they must follow the expectations of the leadership when completing tight tasks. Of course, the leadership team must be clear about what will be tight as their schools move through this process."
I like this because it provides teams with things that we must do, but doesn't dictate to us HOW to do these things. It gives us the freedom to make it work for our team, while still having things that everyone agrees upon and agrees to do.
Step 5: Celebrate Short-Term Wins. This is so hard at my school. We do recognize people/teams in staff meetings etc... but either it doesn't feel genuine or it feels like we are all in competition or that our administrations is playing favorites...but I think that's a school culture problem that we have to work on...
Good chapter- but nothing earth-shattering that I didn't know before... the next chapters get more in depths into the process.

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