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Making the CORE Visible

One of problems I face when I teach curriculum and the CCSS to the leadership candidates in our Master’s program is how to make high quality, cognitively demanding instruction visible and help candidates understand what kinds teaching best supports college readiness.  As City, Elmore, Fiarman and Teitel (2009) emphasize, one of the critical tasks of professional development for school leaders is to help leaders imagine what high quality instruction looks like in order to help them lead instruction and guide improvement in their school.  If one does not understand the goals one works towards, it is hard to achieve them.

I have found that the CCSS support my efforts to teach the leadership candidates this knowledge.  When my classes first start going through the standards, many of the candidates tend to downplay the changes demanded by the CCSS.  They might tell me “We’re doing most of that,” when we go through the standards at their grade level.

Yesterday, in class, I was able to create a real AHA moment and help the leadership candidates I teach see the type of instruction students would need to master the CORE.   We were working together discussing the formative assessments schools might use to support student learning for the Anchor Writing Standards, particularly Standards 7-9.  These standards are:

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

After a good discussion, I had the leadership candidates in my class take one of the ELA tables from the exercises I published in a previous post and discuss student work and school professionals might collect to assess these standards.

This is the table we discussed.  The leadership candidates in my classes had filled it out for homework and were adding to it during our discussion.

Table 3: How is the Standard Measured and How Might it be at Your School. 

CCSS Anchor Standard How is the Standard Measured? How Might it be?
Speaking and Listening    


The AHA moment began when I asked the candidates to look up their grade level on the PARCC model content frameworks.

Suddenly,  abstract talk about the standards became concrete when candidates were confronted with a set of testable expectations for their grade levels.  The difference between the current, everyday curricula of my leadership candidate’s schools and the expectations of the CCSS  was great,  and the PARCC frameworks made this gap visible.  Many of my students had not seen the PARCC  model content chart for their grade level, and when we looked at these charts in the context of our discussion, they were able to see clear differences between CCSS and current practice.

We found the PARCC Writing Standards Progressions to be particularly powerful tools for visualizing the CORE and had an insightful discussion comparing and contrasting 3rd grade with 10th and 11th grade.

The PARCC writing progression from Grade 2 to Grade 3 is on page 5 of this document.

The PARCC writing progression from Grade 8 to Grades 9 & 10 is on page 5 of this document

As a teacher of school leaders, one of the challenges of my practice is to use the diversity in my classes as an asset.  This diversity is not just my students’ race and gender, although both are, of course, important, but the populations and grade levels they teach.  When I first started teaching curriculum I had difficulty creating lessons that benefited both primary teachers and high school teachers.  Digging into the standards in the way that we did in class yesterday,  and discussing the 3rd grade learning progression and then moving to high school, made the CORE visible and deepened my students understanding of what college readiness looks like.   Everyone had something to contribute.   Everyone could learn from each other.

I have found that one of the benefits of the CCSS is how the different components of the standards support these conversations.

Common Core Websites

I will put these in the links section, eventually, but I thought I would also put up a set of links that leaders and teachers might use to deepen their understanding of the CCSS.

National Common Core Resources

The Common Core Standards Webpage



Council of Chief  State School Officers Common Core Webpage

America Achieve’s Common Core Webpage

Achieve the Core

ASCD Common Core

State of New York Common Core Webpage

National Language Arts Common Core Resources

International Reading Association

National Reading and Writing Project

National Writing Project

CCSSO Adolescent Literacy Tool Kit

Shanahan’s Literacy Blog

The Teaching Channel

National Mathematics Common Core Resources

Illustrative Mathematics

Dana Center’s Common Core Toolbox

Inside Mathematics Common Core

Mathematics Assessment Project Standards Page

Progressions Documents for Common Core

Teaching Chanel


Florida Common Core Resources

FLDOE Common Core

CPalms Common Core



Learning the Common Core State Standards: Excercises for School Leaders

This set of excercises is designed to support discussion about the changes written into the CORE among the students in my Curriculum Improvement Classes for the 2013 Spring Semester.  The tables focus on the Anchor Standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice and are intended to help school leaders imagine the broad changes asked by the CCSS and by PARCC and to brainstorm about how they might measure these new standards.

I am including them here in order to provide a set of resources for leaders seeking to learn the Core and support beneficial change in their schools.   I will be giving the students in my Curriculum Improvement classes these exercises and will discuss how they rolled out in future blog posts.


Exercise 1: ELA CCSS Overview

Please look over the CCSS Anchor Standards for Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking and align the vision for instruction in those documents with data from your school.

  1. Please go to the CCSS homepage at  Look over any parts of the webpage that have changed since you were last on the site.
  2. Please go to the webinar on the homepage.  We would like you to watch the first part of the webinar, from minute 2:00 to minute 14:00, just to get an overview of the CCSS.
    1. The webinar is on the bottom right hand corner of the CCSS homepage.
  3. Please go to the CCSS Anchor Standards in English Language Arts and other subjects at, and choose a specific grade level either K-5 or 6-12 and review the anchor standards on the pages listed in the box below.

Table 1:  CCSS Webpages and Page Numbers for Anchor Standards as of 12/31/2012

CCSS Webpages

Webinar link on
Standards on

CCSS Anchor Standards Grades K-5

Please read pages 10, 18, 22, 25

CCSS Anchor Standards Grades 6-12

Please read pages 35, 41, 48, 51



Once you have looked over the Anchor Standards, please complete the following charts, and then discuss them.  In my Curriculum Improvement Class these charts are not graded.  Instead they are for discussion, planning, and development.

Table 2: Vision for Instruction Written into the Standard

CCSS Anchor Standard Vision of Instruction: What does College Readiness Look Like at Your School for Your Grade Levels?
Speaking and Listening  


Table 3: How is the Standard Measured and How Might it be at Your School. 

CCSS Anchor Standard How is the Standard Measured? How Might it be?
Speaking and Listening    


Exorcise 2: CCSS Mathematical Practice Standards

I asked the students in my Curriculum Improvement classes to do the following,ungraded, homework assignment.

Please read over the CCSS standards for mathematical practice and then discuss the standards with one teacher and one school leader—e. g. your principal, assistant principal, or mathematics coach.  Please ask their help to fill out Table 1 below for your chosen grade level group—e. g. primary, intermediate, middle school, high school.  Please discuss Table 2 with them and bring both tables to class.


CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice

  • Please read pages 6-8

Table 1: Vision for Instruction Written into the Standard

CCSS Mathematics Guidance Vision of Instruction: What does College Readiness Look Like at Your School?
Reading Mathematically  
Writing Mathematically  
Problem Solving  


Table 2: How is the Standard Measured and How Might it be at Your School. 

CCSS Mathematics Guidance How is the Standard Currently Measured? How Might it be?
Reading Mathematically    
Writing Mathematically    
Problem Solving    


Exercise 3: PARCC Comparison

This is another homework assignment from my Curriculum Improvement class. I ask them to do it on Week four of the course, after students have spent a great deal of time looking over their own school’s school improvement plan and identifying a problem based on data from the Florida high stakes assessment and then a particular grade level group to focus on for the rest of the course.  That problem is then written into Table 1, below.

Please work with another leader or teacher in your school to fill out Tables 1-3.  This exercise will not be collected.  Instead it will be used to guide class discussion.

Table 1: Major Area of Improvement and Grade Level Group

Major Subject Area for Improvement and Grade Level Group based on state assessment data—e. g. primary reading or middle school mathematics


Please go to the PARCC website and choose the most critical grade level for the grade level group you are attempting to improve.  Use the ELA and Mathematics frameworks to imagine improvement at your school.

Table 2: Vision for Instruction Based on the PARCC Content Frameworks

PARCC Guidance for__________Grade Level What does Good Instruction Look Like?
What does PARCC ask students to learn?
(Please Add Rows if Necessary)
Percentage of Teachers Implementing Quality of Implementation Data School Collects or Might Collect




This blog is intended to support leaders efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards.  The aim is to provide practical advice and resources that will allow dedicated leaders to use the Core to do good and take advantage of the opportunities created by the new standards to support ambitious teaching and beneficial instruction. This site will provide links to important web-based resources on the Common Core, the research the supports the standards, and information about efforts to implement the standards.  It will also provide practical advice for leaders who seek to use the Core to create positive change.
Throughout the goal will be on the practical dilemmas of teaching the CORE to future school leaders in my Curriculum, Curriculum Improvement,  and other classes in our Master’s in Educational Leadership certification program.  I will regularly discuss what I have learned as a teacher, teaching the Core to school leaders, and what I have learned as a researcher, learning from my students’ efforts to make beneficial change.

Thank you,

Charles Vanover, PhD
Assistant Professor
Educational Leadership
University of South Florida Saint Petersburg