Ronald GallimoreEveryone's a teacher to someone (John Wooden)

Implementation Woes for Common Core State Standards

Gallimore, R. & Hiebert, J. (2014). Red Flags on the road to Common Core State Standards Reform. Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 28, 2014 ID Number: 17451.

Implementation is a challenging phase of education reform. In many locales, the rush is on to quickly implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In some districts, textbooks and curriculum materials were delivered only days before school began. Many offered only minimal professional development to help teachers understand what kind of student learning the new standards aim for, and to develop new forms of instruction to support that learning. Despite these circumstances, teachers were still expected to teach the CCSS, and get students ready for new, more demanding assessments coming soon. In too many cases, there is little appreciation that the final, decisive implementation step is teachers planning, trying out, and revising new lessons. Week by week, in small incremental steps, change comes. Often progress is uneven, slower than anticipated, and runs afoul of “hurry-up” pressures that kill reforms before they are ever fully implemented. Evidence is mounting that incremental improvement is the best way to get lasting results –– in medicine, teaching, and industry. Even with robust support for incremental progress, it will take years of collaboration by teachers and administrators for the full benefits of CCSS to be realized. Red flags are up.


A High School Coach Mentored by John Wooden

Reflective practice and ongoing learning: a coach’s 10-year journey
Gallimore, R., Gilbert, W., & Nater, N. (2013). Reflective Practice and Ongoing Learning: A Coach’s Ten Year Journey. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2013.868790

Commitment to ongoing learning is a hallmark of effective sport coaches. Available literature indicates: (a) coach learning inquiries have become more common but mostly conceptual not empirical; (b) the few available empirical studies provide only brief snapshots of ongoing learning efforts and seldom track learning impact; and (c) ongoing learning for sport coaches should be coach-driven and contextually-situated. To help close the gap between conceptual advice and empirical evidence, this paper shares our collective reflections on a unique, 10-year ongoing learning effort initiated and sustained by an American high school basketball coach in a suburban Midwestern community. This story is compelling, not only because of its sustained longitudinal nature, but because of the peer teaching role played by the iconic American basketball coach John Wooden. The story we tell is based on our conversations and interviews with the high school coach, media documents, systematic observation of the coach’s practice videos seven years apart, and perspectives from his school administrators and one of his former players. Ermeling’s four-feature reflective practice typology is used to frame the coach’s ongoing learning effort, and connect the story back to the coach development literature.


Some Examples of the Problems Districts Face When They Try PLCs

In my last post on July 30th, 2013, I mentioned an article that Brad Ermeling and I did based on visits he made to 40 districts trying to operate PLCs –– professional learning communities. He was invited to visit because they had run into a problem. He discovered two types of PLCs, each of which had some challenge.

“Compliance-driven” was one variety of practice Brad observed. These districts described as PLCs meetings in which teachers were expected to work on mandated districts initiatives, such as training on new curricula and materials, analysis of district assessments, accreditation preparation, etc. Of course this variety of PLC might well be effective, so it would be a mistake to discount their value even if they don’t meet consensus PLC criteria.

A second variety was “workshop-inspired.” About 25 of the 40 districts had sent a teachers and administrators to a local or national workshop, typically led by well known speakers. The workshops provided inspirational case examples of districts and schools that had used PLCS to transform teaching and improve achievement. According to the experts, transformation was achieved by a focus on student learning, embracing high expectations for all, and becoming a community of teacher learners. Returning to their districts, the workshop attendees faced a daunting reality. Workshops had inspired but not provided an implementation model. While there were vivid illustrations of what a PLC looked like once it was up and running, there was almost no guidance for where to start, and how to sustain what for most districts was a radical departure from existing culture.

What Brad discovered in both compliance-oriented and workshop-inspired districts was a little time spent studying and improving instruction. In some districts there was confusion, for example, one educator told Brad “we’ve always been told this [PLC] os mot about teaching; it’s about student learning.” As a result, in many districts he visited the prevailing take-away from the PLC workshop was the need to focus on analyzing student assessments. A group of teacher leaders at a charter school said “we never have an opportunity to work on instruction related to our daily classroom teaching.”

It will be a shame if PLCs get labelled as another reform that came up short because the field did not develop implementation models. It’s an old story documented many times. A great idea is launched, but too little attention to paid to that vast gap between intention and outcome ––implementing intentions so they have a chance to produce outcomes. One of the saddest stories in American education is how often we repeat this cycle of enthusiastic beginnings and tawdry endings. For an insightful, if depressing example, read Seymour Sarason’s classic (1971) account of the fate of the New Math Reform of the 1960s. Sarason’s The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change is as relevant today as it was 40+ years ago. It’s documents why perhaps the dirtiest word in education is implementation.
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