A recent study released by the Center for American Progress suggests that teacher empowerment is the key factor in successfully implementing the Common Core State Standards.
States and school districts have seen varying degrees of success in implementing the new standards. According to this report, the common denominator among the success stories is not affluence or even general support for the standards–districts studied varied in socioeconomic status, size, location, and student demographics and academic performance. The study found clear evidence that the strongest predictor of a smooth and successful transition to the Common Core is teacher involvement and empowerment:
The districts in this report vary in size, location, student demographics, socioeconomic status, and student academic performance, but all have worked to give teachers a meaningful voice in decision making during the implementation of the Common Core. The districts include: Baltimore City Public Schools in Baltimore, Maryland; Georgetown Exempted Village Schools in Georgetown, Ohio; Marquardt School District 15 in Glendale Heights, Illinois; Poway Unified School District in San Diego, California; San Juan Unified School District in Carmichael, California; and Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada.
While the specifics and nature of their individual collaborative systems vary, similar types of teacher leadership opportunities are available in each district. These opportunities include:
- Teachers involved in district- and school-level governance. In the profiled districts, teachers serve on school, district, and union governing bodies as a way to ensure that teachers’ perspectives are included in decisions made about the standards and other district priorities.
- Teachers on special assignment. Under this arrangement, teachers have the option of leaving the classroom and working for the district or union, allowing them to support practicing teachers as well as students.
- Teachers in leadership roles who still actively practice in the classroom. Districts place teachers in leadership positions to help with Common Core transition, while still giving them the chance to teach in the classroom for at least part of the school day.
These findings directly contradict the idea that the standards are a top-down mandate without school-level support. On the contrary. The Standards work best–and were designed to work best–when the teachers who use them are empowered to develop complimentary systems and curricula, and can adapt those lessons to meet the needs of their students.