Getting implementation right

For some time now, I’ve been impressed by Tennessee’s Common Core implementation efforts. I even interviewed Emily Barton from the state’s department of education for By the Company It Keeps for this very reason (well, and because she’s generally exceptional).

Two recent documents along these lines are worth noting. The SEA released a short piece called “20 Things Every Tennessee Teacher Should Know about the PARCC Assessments.” It’s far more than your typical glossy communications piece. It actually has some serious content that should both inform educators and give confidence to leaders in the state that the SEA is on its game.

But even more importantly, it’ll probably help the state’s efforts to cool whatever anti–Common Core or anti-common-assessments sentiment that’s simmering. The document shows that PARCC is a serious effort to gauge kids’ progress toward college and career readiness.

I was happy they sent this along because part of my handwringing about PARCC’s troubles has been that it has felt like there’s been next to no active advocacy for common testing. To the extent the reform community’s talked about the consortia, it’s usually been reactive—pushing back against opposition. Documents like this (and I’m hoping other PARCC states have similar ones or produce them) can help the cause.

The other document is a pretty thorough—though user-friendly—analysis of TN’s 2013 writing test results. This might seem like a marginal contribution, but give it a look. It discusses major findings and their implications, provides recommendations for preparing for the next administration of tests, and highlights the key standards that schools ought to be focusing on. Even the final page (Data Appendix) is illuminating.

If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you probably either care a great deal about Common Core or live in Tennessee. But there’s another reason to take note. These products show what good policy implementation looks like. Passing a law is simple compared to making its provisions come to life.

The Tennessee Department of Education (like my old colleagues in New Jersey) is showing how it can be done.

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