Joe Crawford is a former principal and district administrator who works with districts around the country on aligning their curricula with the Common Core. He is also the author of the new book, Aligning Your Curriculum to the Common Core State Standards. In this interview, Joe talks about what school leaders need to be thinking about in terms of implementing the Common Core State Standards, identifies what he sees as the biggest challenges ahead, and provides a nuts-and-bolts look at the process of aligning local curricula to the new Common Core State Standards.
Q: What should superintendents, district administrators and principals be thinking about in a very big picture way right now in terms of the Common Core state standards and in implementing the standards in their districts?
Joe Crawford: Probably the first thing they need to do is come to understand the academic expectations that are contained in the Common Core standards. We come off of 50 different sets of standards and the Common Core standards are different in content from all the other standards, so that whole transition to the different academic expectations is critical. For example, in Illinois, we began testing probability and statistics in 3rd grade. They are not even talked about in the Common Core standards until 6th grade, but we are going to continue to use the Illinois standard achievement test to measure student achievement. So, does that mean we switch to the Common Core, drop probability and statistics, and a take a bath on the test? We are definitely not recommending that, but until you begin to understand the differences in the expectations and the Common Core from the assessment system you are currently using, jumping into Common Core can be catastrophic. So, you have to spend some time looking at the Common Core expectations versus the state assessments you are going to continue to take, and then we will deal with the national assessment if and when it comes along.
Q: What are the biggest challenges and issues for school leaders in implementing the Common Core State Standards?
Joe Crawford: Probably the biggest challenge is an attitude among the teaching staff of, “Here we go again. This too shall pass. The flavor of the month cometh.” I think that we have to believe in the Common Core and we have to create a belief that the Common Core are here to stay, and that they really are some very good curriculum documents. I mean, no curriculum document is ever perfect, but there really are some curriculum documents that, if we adapt them and use them, can really improve student performance. Almost more importantly than improve student performance is standardize expectations. So that, you know, we live in a very mobile society, as kids move from here to there to everywhere; it would be nice if they had a similar academic experience in Texas to the one they are going to get in Illinois.