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Common Core Workshops Promote Collaboration

7/04/2012
AFT/IFT members sat down with administrators, district officials, parents and other stakeholders June 29-July 1 to drill down into the Common Core State Standards: Together they learned how to implement them most effectively and how to pass that knowledge and enthusiasm on to their colleagues.

Educators have praised the standards for presenting a comprehensive learning experience, rather than teaching to the test. "This new set of standards actually is about trying to help all kids reach a deeper understanding," AFT president Randi Weingarten told conference participants. "It is about helping us help kids learn to critically think, and learn to apply knowledge as opposed to simply memorize."

Bringing together different factions to implement the standards, as this AFT-sponsored conference did, is at least as important, Weingarten said. "I am a zealot about the Common Core, but I'm even more of a zealot about having to do the advocacy all together as a community: parents, teachers, teacher leaders, unionists, superintendents, curriculum folk, clergy, school boards."

Participants attended in teams, so that principals, teachers and others from the same district sat together, listening to examples of how other districts have brought different stakeholders together to successfully begin implementation. Then each group had time to discuss how those strategies might work in their own districts.

Participants then spent an afternoon engaged with Common Core education experts, "unpacking" the standards in detail—relating specific standards to actual curriculum and tasks for students. A presentation about assessment and accountability followed, and then teams from four different districts presented their successful rollout of Common Core.

The Chicago team explained its system of teacher leaders who train others in developing units of study. Supported by the district, which granted professional development time to facilitate the project, six teams of teachers wrote units that will be included in a national databank of exemplary Common Core-driven lessons.

Throughout the conference, participants were given specific tools to take home—such as examples of how colleagues in other districts found funding, samples of parent information letters explaining Common Core, even a flow chart outlining how to work successfully with disparate parties on a shared goal.

To read more about the conference, visit the AFT Web site.
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