The Intersection

A Lesson from Kentucky on the Importance of CCSS Community Engagement

October 12, 2012


Throughout the country, there is much debate regarding implementation of the Common Core.  Supporters believe this new set of standards will require educators to teach to a higher cognitive level enabling students to become better prepared for the global challenges they will face. Those opposed to the Common Core share concerns that not all students will be encouraged to reach their full potential because the Standards will become the “ceiling” of instruction.

With all due respect to the debaters, the truth is that both sides of this argument may be correct.  States and local school districts have utilized standards-based instruction for years.  In some cases, the standards were rigorous, but classroom instruction failed to maintain that level of expectation for all students.  In other cases, the standards lacked rigor, and even though the majority of students were able to excel, the truly accelerated students failed to advance.

As an instructional supervisor in a rural Kentucky school district, it seems to me that the real discussion needs not to be about the Standards, but about the support that will be provided to our children and to our educators during the implementation phase.  If we are to ever meet the need of preparing all students to succeed in the global workforce, we must face the reality that the Common Core alone will not suffice.  No matter how rigorous or how complete the Standards are, gaps in achievement will continue to exist if we do not provide children and educators with the support they deserve.

Please do not misinterpret “support” to mean money.  It seems that connotation gets in the way whenever this discussion occurs.  True support to children and educators means recognizing the challenges they face and doing our part as community members to assure those challenges are overcome.

Community support for educational improvement exists in many ways and can be fostered by creating a welcomed climate for change around key areas. Examples that have occurred right here in Kentucky include:

  • Community volunteers read individually with students so that teachers can have more opportunity for small group instruction;
  • Newspaper reporters work collaboratively with school administrators to produce a series of articles informing parents of the positive changes occurring in their schools;
  • Churches and community centers provide free or reduced-rate day care services on school district work days so that families and teachers will not have to worry about child care when teachers need collaborative time;
  • Resource centers make technology equipment available for students to use when research expectations require that students study primary and secondary sources of information while outside of class;
  • Local libraries offer research assistance and study support during the after-school hours so that students can receive supplemental instruction;
  • Employers support content learning by providing tours of their manufacturing plants and farms, while relating the skills and knowledge necessary for students to learn in order to be successful in their industry; and
  • Economic development leaders meet with school district staff to discuss career pathway needs in their community and to determine the best way for schools and businesses to collaborate in the implementation of those paths.

These are the types of “on the ground” efforts that are critical to supporting high standards, improving achievement, and creating a collaborative environment.  Communities must be engaged in the education of their children if students and educators are to be successful.

Cherry Boyles is the Instructional Supervisor for Washington County Schools in Kentucky.  She was named to the Learning Forward CCSS Implementation Task Force for Kentucky and has been an educator for 20 years.

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