Implementing the Common Core in DC Public Schools

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Guest blogger Josie Malone has taught eleventh and twelfth grade English teacher in DC Public Schools for four years. Recently she's been working with the district to align its English Language Arts curriculum with the Common Core State Standards.

I am very excited about the potential which the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have to put instruction in DC Public Schools on par with that of other districts across the country. I'm hopeful that the CCSS will help ensure that our students graduate with the skills necessary to compete successfully with students in a global economy.

From my perspective as a high school English teacher, I can attest that the first stages of implementing the ELA Common Core standards in DCPS have gone smoothly. DCPS has hosted a number of professional development opportunities to familiarize teachers with coming changes. They've also provided substantially more instructional guidance than before, rolling out scope and sequence charts in conjunction with recommended curricula.

But there's still work to be done if the CCSS are going to be a framework guiding DCPS students to college and career readiness.

1. Student access to text
A key objective of the Common Core is the study of rigorous, complex texts. Ideally, DCPS would already have a strong collection of anchor texts -- the fundamental materials for each CCSS English unit -- that it could distribute to schools. Unfortunately, our classrooms are all too often barren of the right kinds of books. Many of my fellow teachers are trying to compensate by applying for donations from outside organizations. But such a strategy runs the risk of exacerbating the achievement gap that CCSS is designed in part to close. The district must make it a priority to supply all classrooms with the texts students need to meet the new standards.

2. Shared accountability
DCPS and the city as a whole need to make sure that teacher instruction and student effort match the rigor demanded by Common Core State Standards. Teachers are and should be held accountable for helping their students meet the high bar of the CCSS. But to do so they will need even more subject-specific guidance and instructional feedback.

Students, particularly high school students, should also bear some responsibility for their achievement. DC's State Board of Education is now considering new high school graduation requirements. I would urge the board to make sure that these requirements are truly aligned with the Common Core.

Working together, DCPS, teachers and students can make sure the next stage of implementing the Common Core in DC is a success.

--Josie Malone