When the Common Core State Standards were adopted by the state board of education in June of 2010, many districts chose to sit back while others got an early start on implementation.
Now, with assessments aligned to the Common Core on track to be released during the 2014-15 school year, districts have no time left for waiting. Most are planning to shift their teaching in the coming school year.
Benjamin Churchill, assistant superintendent in Community Unit District 300, said the Carpentersville-based district did not take the "wait and see" approach to implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Administrators and teachers have been working to align their curriculum and improve their assessments for more than two years.
Churchill said a lack of resources at the beginning of the process has turned into a wave of workshops and trainings in recent weeks. He attended one at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights Tuesday along with about 400 representatives from districts across the region.
"We felt at first like we were on our own," Churchill said. "Now we're feeling much more supported. … It's just taken awhile for everybody to get to the same place."
The new standards are meant to focus instruction on preparing all students for college and career success. They were created by a coalition of educators and researchers across the country as consistent benchmarks from which to judge students nationwide.
Tuesday's forum was organized by nonprofit education reform group Advance Illinois. The keynote speaker, Sandra Alberti, works for Student Achievement Partners, which was founded by three authors of the Common Core State Standards and now provides free materials schools can use to implement the Common Core.
The three-hour-long training included Alberti's speech, which detailed the key shifts required by the new standards for English language arts and math instruction, as well as an update from Illinois State Board of Education Chief Education Officer Susie Morrison about the state's Common Core resources and plan for student assessments. Attendees could also ask questions of a panel that included Alberti, Morrison, a Loyola University School of Education professor and two superintendents.
Alberti said a key challenge of implementing the Common Core will be resisting the urge to add new concepts without taking others away. Teachers will have to figure out what they can cut to focus instruction on certain concepts and take the time to teach them well.
Her speech was designed to help teachers and administrators get a big picture look at the Common Core and why the new standards are important for students.
Desireé Kass, a fourth-grade teacher at Holy Angels Catholic School in Aurora, said educators in her school have been talking about the Common Core for a couple of years and are getting an idea of what it will look like in practice. She still has questions about what they will mean for her classroom but was heartened by the promise of detailed resources on the Student Achievement Partners website.
She said she looks forward to the new standards for instruction.
"I'm excited about it," Kass said. "We need a shift."