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The Importance of Effective Implementation of College-and Career Readiness Standards

There are just some times I feel like I am way behind the eight ball, and implementing college and career ready standards is one of those times. I am a veteran teacher of thirty-two years but when it comes to implementing the standards I can feel like I am taking a drink from a fire hose. I graduated from college and began my career in the days when we closed our classroom door and taught as we wanted. Thankfully those days are long gone as I know that past instruction was on a myriad of topics, included a range of practices and skillsets. Students were often not held to high expectations, and teachers did not have a clear guidepost of what students need to know and be able to do by the time they graduated.

Ensuring that teachers are equipped to effectively implement the standards is critical to ensuring students receive a high-quality education. I recall the saying, “If you do not know where you are going you will end up somewhere else.” That certainly describes the standards: teachers need the standards to help chart the path for student mastery of concepts and skills.

But while college and career-ready standards have been in place for many years in Colorado, I cannot say that teachers have fully mastered implementation and aligning their lessons and assessments with the greatest of finesse. For many teachers, the standards can be overwhelming.

Teachers need training and support to fully implement the standards, starting with helping them to unpack the standards. Teachers need to analyze the language and understand the progression of learning throughout the year and how skills and content builds upon each other. They need to identify the skills students need first before they can learn the next part. They build upon each other until all parts of the standards are met. Answering the question, what are kids supposed to know and be able to do and then what is the best learning order?

Teachers need to unpack the standards to understand the skills students are required to use in each one. The standards ask students to use higher level thinking skills. For example, students are asked to analyze, compare and contrast, and cite evidence from multiple sources. Teachers need to ensure they are instructing these skills with fidelity so they can assess whether students are ready to move onto the next set of content.

To implement the standards and deliver aligned instruction, teachers need high-quality continuous professional learning. Districts and schools should not assume that all teachers are equipped to align their instruction with the standards the way they were intended. I believe, when districts invest in implementation and professional learning around implementation, they are spending their money wisely. Providing teachers with the support they need sets them up for success but more importantly, it sets our students up for success.

Jill Cullis teaches Social Studies at Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. Jill has been teaching for 32 years and has been involved in everything from leadership roles in her school and district, to writing curriculum, to coaching many different sports.