Through a grant awarded to the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) by the AFT Innovation Fund, teachers and instructional coaches in select Focus Schools in the Cincinnati Public Schools system have had the unique opportunity to utilize a coaching tool – created by Student Achievement Partners (SAP) – to help guide and focus their implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The SAP Instructional Practice Guide helps teachers and those who support them to build understanding about CCSS-aligned instruction, with the end goal to encourage the conversation between the coach and teacher and between fellow teachers in a non-evaluative setting.
Teachers attend training sessions on the Core Actions in English Language Arts and Math Instructional Practice Guides in order to maintain focus on the instructional practice shifts in CCSS – Ohio’s Learning Standards. Each training session is followed by a round of peer classroom visits, where teachers have the opportunity to give each other feedback and reflect on their visit experiences. Although some teachers had some apprehension with the visits initially, once they completed the first round, they realized what a valuable professional experience it was and couldn’t wait to get into each other’s classrooms again. Based on feedback and teacher reflections, the response from all teachers was overwhelmingly positive.
Professional development modules from AchievetheCore.org have been used for all Instructional Practice Guide trainings and SAP recently launched their newest site, TeachingtheCore.org, a video library which holds more than 100 videos of Common Core instruction in real classroom settings. Each lesson is annotated using SAP’s Instructional Practice Guide to highlight exemplary moments that align to the instructional practice shifts required in Common Core teaching.
Teachers will complete the new Common Core State Standards Knowledge and Practice Survey, a tool created by SAP for educators to reflect on their instructional practice and knowledge of CCSS. Designed for a professional learning community setting within a school, the survey is meant to spark conversation, identify areas for growth, and offer concrete ways for teams of educators to continue to align their practice to the Shifts. The survey is not a measure of teacher quality; it is not an evaluation nor is it input into teacher evaluation. Rather, it is designed to facilitate individual and group learning.
It pleases me to share that our grant model received national exposure in the professional development section of a VIVA Idea Exchange Common Core State Standards report – which I co-authored – for being an example of the positive impact of promoting teacher leadership opportunities and working collaboratively with teacher unions. Last spring, members of our writing collaboration team introduced the report at the Education Writer’s Association (EWA) Conference in Chicago and, shortly after, we presented the recommendations to district and state policymakers in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Education, Center for American Progress, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Council of the Great City Schools. Our project was also presented at the 2015 AFT (American Federation of Teachers) TEACH conference in July, where several teachers and coaches shared details about how this collaboration has both improved and enhanced the focus of CCSS implementation.