Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Teaching to the Common Core by Design, Not Accident: The Gates Foundation's Substantial Investment in Developing the Common Core State Standards Now Depends on Translating Big Ideas into Practices That Teachers Can and Will Use

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Teaching to the Common Core by Design, Not Accident: The Gates Foundation's Substantial Investment in Developing the Common Core State Standards Now Depends on Translating Big Ideas into Practices That Teachers Can and Will Use

Article excerpt

After years of hard work by state leaders, educators, and other advocates, the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics are final, and 45 states and the District of Columbia have officially adopted them.

But getting from standards on paper to the deep changes required in practice will be a significant challenge. For example, the literacy standards for grades 6 and above assume that history, social studies, science, and technical teachers--not just English teachers--will use their content expertise to help students read, write, speak, and listen using the language of their disciplines. Yet, historically, "literacy" has been the sole domain of English language arts classes. The math standards ask teachers to focus and spend more time on fewer, more important things so students can build conceptual understanding, achieve procedural skill and fluency, and learn how to transfer what they know to solve problems in and out of the math classroom.

As strong believers in clear, consistent standards that focus on what students need to be prepared for college and careers, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was proud to support the Common Core work. We also understood that there was a window of opportunity to support teachers in turning the standards from policy into practice between the time that states adopt the standards and when new summative assessments come on line in 2014-15. In particular, we wanted to give teachers a good starting place to prepare for the new assessments and to begin shifting instruction to make the standards real in classrooms. Based on our experiences as classroom teachers and as state and district administrators, we knew we wanted to invest in really well-designed tools and supports that could find the right balance between encouraging teachers' creativity and giving them enough guidance to ensure quality. And we wanted to ground these tools in evidence about what really powerful teaching aligned with the Common Core looks like.

Between 2009 and 2011, the College-Ready Work team at the Gates Foundation committed more than $76 million in direct charitable expenditures to support teachers in implementing the Common Core. We funded projects that included the design of new tools to help teachers enact the standards in their classrooms, like our $5.9-million investment at the University of California, Berkeley to create a set of Classroom Challenges in Mathematics to help teachers enact formative assessments aligned to the Common Core. We've partnered with states and districts interested in piloting these new designs, making grants to a diverse set of districts ranging from Hillsborough, Fla. ($350,000) to the state of Kentucky ($1 million). We also have partnerships to help disseminate Common Core aligned tools and practices to educators.

We've been working with designers, subject-matter specialists, education leaders, and most importantly, classroom teachers to develop, field test, and refine tools that resonate with teachers based on a set of "design principles."

First, we wanted to focus on the pattern of behavior we were trying to address. In math, that meant helping teachers give students immediate feedback on their mathematical understanding. In literacy, it meant supporting social studies and science teachers to teach literacy skills they hadn't been expected to teach previously and helping ELA teachers focus on areas that haven't always been priorities, like informational texts and writing other than narrative.

Second, we wanted simple elegance: tools that were flexible, slender, and able to slip into a teacher's instruction without requiring them to read through hundreds of pages of implementation manuals. We think the simplicity of the math and literacy tools is one of the draws.

Third, we wanted to honor the creative tension in teaching. We didn't want to tell teachers what to do lock, stock, and barrel nor did we want something so open that the resulting lessons would be more likely to lack rigor or fidelity to the standards. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.