Implementing the Common Core: Notes from a rural Ohio school

We have continued to talk with educators about the implementation for the Common Core Curriculum and PARCC assessments. (Please click on the following links to read our interviews with Chad Webb, former principal of Village Prep Academy: Woodland Hills Campus, and Judy Hennessey of DECA.) We’ve been asking how they and their schools have prepared for the Common Core and what could potentially hinder a smooth transition.

Today’s interview is with Foresta Shope, the founding principal of Sciotoville Elementary Academy (SEA), a K-6 elementary school in rural southwestern Ohio. SEA was created in 2008 by community members and families standing together with a common goal and commitment to the children of the town of Sciotoville and its surrounding areas. Foresta is a believer in using data to improve instruction practices and education outcomes.

Below are the questions and excerpts from our conversation with Foresta.

Q: What's your biggest worry about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?  

As an instructional leader, my biggest worry is maintaining positive staff morale. There are so many changes occurring simultaneously in education. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that we are here for the kids and we need to seek alternatives to improve teaching and learning so that we may grow as educators. All key stakeholders must have a shared vision of the end result.

Q: What do you need to put in place before this all starts? 

We have successfully implemented the CCSS at the K-2 level this year. We had to ensure that teachers had significant training in understanding (breaking down) the standards so they had a deep understanding and working knowledge of them. We also provided CCSS materials for them to ensure teachers have many resources for reference. We had to ensure that the instructional materials that are being used not only correlated with CCSS but were built for them.

Q. Do you have all the technology needed for testing? 

We will need to upgrade our computers to Windows 7 to meet testing specifications. We have a plan in place to accomplish this by the end of 2013.

Q. What skills do your teachers have that will make this easier? 

My teachers have been trained in the CCSS and have completed pacing charts as well as completed an analysis or break-down of  their grade level CCSS. We also do an excellent job of communicating with our parents. We understand that parent communication and the development of partnerships is extremely important. My teachers are all competent with technology and will be able to transition easily.

Q. What could the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) do to make sure things go as smoothly as possible? 

During this time of transition, it would be extremely helpful if ODE would provide the funding needed for PD, materials, technology upgrades, etc. to assist in this change process. With cuts in educational funding, it seems as if we are being asked to do more with less. I believe that most educators are willing to do whatever is needed to efficiently and effectively help our students succeed, but it is an unrealistic expectation for districts to do this on their own.

Q. What do you want your parents to know about CCSS? 

Research shows a strong correlation between parent involvement and student achievement. We understand that it is extremely important to have working relationships with our parents. At the beginning of next school year we will be providing every parent with the CCSS Roadmaps for Parents. These roadmaps will provide every parent with the information they will need explaining our expectations for students meeting these high standards and what skills their child will need to know by what specific period throughout the school year.

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