The Intersection

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: Emerging Practice in Implementing the Common Core State Standards

October 4, 2012

While many educators have heard of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by this point and understand the “what” and the “why,” many are still eager for help with “how” to make the shift to the Common Core. In a recent Education Week webinar, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ (CMS) Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark and Director of Humanities Rebecca Graf discussed their district’s approach to building capacity, training educators, and supporting teachers.

According to Clark and Graf, one essential piece of the CMS implementation plan is their inclusion of all educators in the district. CMS formed a leadership team that includes teachers, assistant principals, principals, zone superintendents, and specialists who meet monthly to discuss implementation strategies and next steps. CMS has also conducted trainings with their school board and with administrators—not just with teachers. Finally, the district has leveraged their existing professional learning communities (PLCs)—groups of district leaders that meet weekly—as ready-made forums for discussing implementation.

CMS has also worked to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers. For example, the entire district focused on one writing standard for the entire 2011-2012 school year as part of the larger plan to implement the CCSS in English language arts and literacy. Throughout the year, teachers at all grade levels and in all subject areas developed tasks aligned with the standard and then implemented them in their classrooms. The PLCs then analyzed the work from the students to decide whether they met the standard. This work was then uploaded to an online repository, which has grown to more than 1,600 sample assignments and more than 4,800 samples of student work. Ultimately, this focused exercise gave teachers in the district experience in applying a standard and collaborating with peers—skills they can use when unpacking any of the other standards.

Finally, CMS paid special attention to preparing principals to be effective resources for their teachers. The district conducted specific trainings and meetings for principals. These meetings were held first at the district level, with follow-up meetings based on the grade level of the principals’ school and where their school is located. CMS also created a website specifically for principals to house a variety of resources, sample materials, and other content.

Questions submitted by the webinar’s audience demonstrated how hungry educators in other districts are for specific knowledge and advice on how to implement the CCSS.  Audience members asked for specifics on how CMS was implementing the standards, how decisions were made, and how the district is helping all teachers in all grades and subjects make the transition in a way that does not overwhelm them.

An archived copy of the webinar can be found here.

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