Connecticut Reading Association Fall Conference – 2012

Welcome given by Dr. Marion H. Martinez, Associate Commissioner of Teaching, Learning and Instructional Leadership

Good Morning! What a great turn out for the CT Reading Association’s 61st Annual Conference – Literacy: Our Common Core. The high caliber programs CRA offers each year makes this is a conference I always look forward to and apparently so do you!

The implementation of the common core will represent the biggest shift in educational philosophy our country has ever seen. With only a couple of states choosing not to adopt the common core standards, the overwhelming number of students in our country will be impacted.

With full implementation of the standards looming in 2014-15, when the PARCC and Smarter Balance assessments are administered, perhaps no group feels more pressure than teachers. We all know teachers can’t wait until 2014 to begin changing their practice which requires focusing on increased rigor, deeper understanding and instructional shifts that will challenge students in new and different ways. Right now, teachers across this country are changing their practice knowing, if successful, more students will graduate from high school college and career ready, and be better prepared for successful careers and life.

But change is never easy…not for teachers, administrators or students. Many prominent educators see the common core movement as having tremendous potential in changing teaching and learning, but others fear poor implementation may be its undoing. They warn without ongoing, sustained, high quality professional development for all educators; teachers, administrators and superintendents, adoption may have little sustained impact.

The Washington-based Center on Educational Policy recently conducted a nationally representative survey of school districts and found that fewer than half of the districts had put into place planned professional development aligned to the standards. With the deadline for the new assessments fast approaching in 2014-15, high quality professional development is essential. And if change is to occur, be sustained and impact future learning and student achievement, educators must have a deep understanding of the standards and master the pedagogical instructional shifts. They must interact intimately with the standards, unpack them and really understand what is expected. That can only be achieved through review and identification of the power standards and posts and rails as Larry Ainsworth says.

Even if teachers proficiently incorporate the instructional shifts into their teaching, it remains incumbent upon administrators who observe teachers knowing what to look for…is the teacher using “multiple sources of information” when teaching new content and, another example, is the teacher challenging students to “present and defend ideas in the strand on applying learning.” Do teachers and evaluators recognize “highly effective” teaching when they see it? For that matter, identifying the differences among all the criteria; highly effective, effective, developing, ineffective. To achieve a level of competence and confidence in the process, both groups need intensive ongoing training with a built-in process for re-calibration.

This is a time filled with opportunities to truly impact the future of teaching and learning. However, there are also many unanswered questions. Can all students achieve the standards without extending the instructional day? Can kindergarten students achieve the rigorous standards in a half day program, especially urban children who have not had the benefit of quality pre-school programs?

I frequently ask myself, how will the initiatives we are engaged in – implementing the common core standards, new educator evaluation plans, school accountability….the school reform movement, in general, be viewed ten years from now? I hope it results in schools being better places for students and teachers, I hope students are better prepared to live successful lives and compete in the global arena and I hope teachers will continue to feel a love for teaching and know they have made a difference in the lives of their students.

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