New Bridgespan Study Identifies “Missing Link” in Ed Reform Between Common Core and Improved Learning

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Paper warns states and districts not to overlook their most important resource: teachers, offering three models for engaging them for results.

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The most important thing leaders in the education field can do to help the Common Core movement succeed is to support teachers in improving their practice.

A new study released by The Bridgespan Group on the Common Core State Standards for K-12 students warns that this latest effort at education reform is at risk of failing because leaders in the field are neither grasping the magnitude of the change needed to meet the standards nor charting the right paths for implementation.

According to co-author Amy Coe Rodde, “The most important thing leaders in the education field can do to help the Common Core movement succeed is to support teachers in improving their practice. Yet the current discussion is focused elsewhere—on teacher evaluations, test scores, and the role the federal government has played.”

The Common Core State Standards in Math and English provide a set of learning standards by grade so that students are sufficiently prepared for rigorous, college-level work, a higher bar for student learning and a significant shift from most states’ current standards. Co-author Lija McHugh says, “Not all field leaders are grasping the opportunity presented by the Common Core to transform teaching and learning; moreover, the standards alone are just one part of a chain of linked actions needed to make real change.”

The Bridgespan paper, Building the Missing Link Between the Common Core and Improved Learning: How a state, a school district, and a technical assistance provider are using their best resource—teachers—to implement the Common Core standards for improved teaching and learning identifies some of the links that lead to student achievement by surfacing insights from the group’s education practice work with states and districts, and their technical assistance providers and funders. Specifically, it profiles the Common Core implementation efforts of a state (Kentucky), a district (Hillsborough County), and a technical assistance provider (Center for Inspired Teaching), each of which are aiming to achieve deep, sustainable changes in instruction by:

(1)    Embracing and communicating how significantly the Common Core will raise the bar for student learning, and that this new bar requires dramatic changes in instruction;
(2)    Making sure teachers are at the front of the movement and working together to lead their own improvement toward shared, ambitious goals; and
(3)    Providing teachers with the structures, time, and resources required to sustain the many years and many cycles of inquiry and improvement necessary to achieve the new bar for student learning.

“Such work on systems change is not easy, but it is critical for effective implementation. The examples in the article shed light on what it will take to gain significant improvement in teaching and learning. As more education leaders seize the opportunity of the Common Core to change teaching practice and student learning, examples like these should be less difficult to find,” says Rodde.

About The Bridgespan Group

The Bridgespan Group (http://www.bridgespan.org) is a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. We collaborate with social sector leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and accelerate learning. We work on issues related to society’s most important challenges and to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. Our services include strategy consulting, leadership development, philanthropy advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.

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Liz London
The Bridgespan Group
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