The main burden for implementing the new Common Core Standards will fall first on administrators.  Current practice is for supervisors to enter a classroom and begin immediately collecting evidence on the teaching standards.  With practice, this becomes very easy to do.  Even before the teacher says or does anything, the set-up of the classroom and the information on bulletin boards and white boards says much about the management of that classroom (Standard 2). Most observations begin with the premise that teaching is a performance art and the supervisor can script-tape a class and simultaneously look for engagement, subject matter competence, classroom norms, evidence of planning and checks for understanding.  Most teachers are assessing machines, so there is very little challenge in collecting data on assessment.  The entire package reveals the extent to which teachers are developing as professional educators (the 6th and final teaching standard).  But what if administrators were re-trained to observe students instead of teachers?  What are the students doing while the teacher is doing what he's doing, as a consultant teacher in Temecula once described it to me? 

The key to changing this perspective is to examine the actors in each set of standards.  The actor, of course, in the teaching standards is invariably the teacher.  Student behavior is only implied and becomes an outcome of what an effective teacher does.  Let's examine the language of a few teaching standards:

1.2: Connecting students’ prior knowledge, life experience, and interests with learning goals
2.5: Planning and implementing classroom procedures and routines that support student learning
4.2: Establishing and articulating goals for student learning
5.2: Collecting and using multiple sources of information to assess student learning

The standards are all organized this way grammatically,, a series of participial phrases.  If we change the verbals to verbs and add the actor, the language becomes much more explicit:  the teacher connects students' prior knowledge . . . . ; the teacher plans and implements classroom procedures . . . . ; the teacher establishes and articulates goals for student learning; the teacher collects and uses multiple sources of information to assess student learning.  Supervisors have always known that they are in classrooms to evaluate teachers, but the re-writing of these standards makes it that much more explicit to the public.  

An similar examination of the College and Career Readiness Standards reveals that the lens for observation shifts dramatically, from what the teacher is doing to what the student is doing.  Here are a few of the standards:

1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
10. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Once again, the actor is left out of the standards, but the identity of the actor is certainly implied.  Let's re-write the standards to make it explicit:  the student reads closely to determine what the text says explicitly . . . .; the student interprets words and phrases as they are used in a text. . . .; the student assesses how point of view or purpose shapes the content . . . ; the student delineates and evaluates the argument and specific claims in a text . . . ; the student reads and comprehends complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.  

I have gone into classrooms and tried to observe for these standards and I will readily admit that it is not easy.  We are so predisposed to watch the performance of the teacher, and the teacher is so accustomed to having his own performance judged, that turning our lens toward student behavior, especially the silent reading and re-reading of classroom text, becomes an immediate challenge.  How can we assess the independent, silent and proficient mastery of complex content area text by an individual student?  

This will be the first challenge of adopting the Common Core Standards.  Even before frameworks are re-written and textbooks are edited to match revised curricula, administrators must gradually change teacher behavior by observing what students do.  Both teachers and administrators should be watching students in a classroom that has the Common Core Standards in place.

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