What Does Implementation of Common Core look like?

Grantees in this story

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"Implementation is everything!” That is the mantra of Sandy Boyd, chief operating officer of Achieve, a Carnegie Corporation grantee. The education reform group helped states develop the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and is now working on Next Generation Science Standards. Boyd recently visited Kenton County, Kentucky, for a first-hand look at a district where Common Core is getting good results. We asked about her visit.

Kenton County’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards is considered a model for other districts. What distinguishes it?

What the district demonstrated early on was leadership. In 2009, they knew that Kentucky was an early adopter of the Common Core, they saw what was coming, they wanted to improve the performance of their students, and they made a commitment across the board to figure out the curriculum, to get their teachers the professional development, to provide the coaching, and they stuck with it.

The nonprofit Grantmakers for Education invited funders of CCSS to hear high school students in Kenton County, Kentucky, describe their experiences as the district’s 14,000 students transitioned into a new, more rigorous way of learning:

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Can you give examples of effective implementation?

It was very interesting hearing high school students talk about the differences between classes now, and a few years ago before Common Core. Today their lessons are very interactive. Teachers aren’t standing up in front of the room lecturing. They are really helping students think through problems. There was a lot of group interaction and a lot of thoughtful discussion. Students were thinking of new ways of deconstructing a math problem or a poem, and it was exciting to see.

One high school junior said that she did not feel as strong in math as she did in English, and it was helpful to hear from her peers and learn from them. She couldn’t just sit passively. The structure of the class forced her to be involved and challenge herself, and she felt that she has become a better student because of it.

What is your main takeaway from the visit?

What struck me, again and again, was the district’s commitment to talking with parents and keeping them informed, and to making teachers a part of the planning and the discussions.

Teachers know what they are doing. They’ve had a lot of professional development so that when they meet with parents on back-to-school night, for conferences, or when parents have concerns about homework, the teachers feel very comfortable explaining to parents what they are doing and why they are doing it. 

The other thing was the very important role of the coaches. They are willing to come into the classroom, teach a new lesson, and model how to do something. They come to collaborative meetings, they are always available, and every teacher we talked to mentioned how incredibly great that resource is. With this level of commitment in Kenton County, Kentucky, there has been no push back. 

Learn more about Kenton County School District’s implementation strategy.