Susan Huff

Susan Huff, EdD, has retired as principal of Spanish Oaks Elementary School in Utah after 34 years in public education. Previously, she was principal of Santaquin Elementary and Westside Elementary.

Common Core Implementation in a PLC - Part 1 of 3

Part 1: Common Core Implementation in a PLC

A new school year has begun—the 33rd new school year for me. Every year holds great anticipation and excitement as we welcome back students. I finally stopped having the recurring nightmare of sleeping in on the first day of school or coming to school in my pajamas. I work with teachers who continue to have those first-day-of-school nightmares. But no one at our school is having nightmares about Common Core (CC) implementation. Instead, there is energy, confidence, and commitment among our teachers—they are ready for this new challenge of CC implementation.

So how did our teachers come to the point of not feeling overwhelmed by all the changes required in this transition to CC standards? Our district’s gradual transition plan was helpful to teachers; CC standards K–12 for language arts were implemented the first year (2011–12) except for sixth and ninth grades. Sixth grade implemented only math last year, while ninth grade implemented both math and language arts. Then this school year that scenario is reversed: sixth grade is adding language arts implementation and the other grades are adding math. The last phase for us is when secondary math adds Math 3 in 2013–14.

What helped our transition most is our commitment to use a professional learning community (PLC) framework districtwide to provide structure to our work. I personally cannot imagine any other way of conducting school than as a PLC. I’m now principal of a third school where I have led the PLC at Work™ process (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2008). I have witnessed schools become great learning institutions for students, as well as the adults who serve students. The most powerful tool teachers have to help them with CC implementation is weekly PLC team collaboration time, where teachers meet for one hour to continue to unwrap CC standards, plan common formative assessments, analyze data, and plan a collective response when students don’t learn.

Of course there is some uneasiness as we navigate new waters in the CC, but there is overall excitement and commitment to this new venture on our journey to transform our schools into PLCs with CC standards.


DuFour, R., DuFour, R., & Eaker R. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at Work™: New insights for improving schools. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.



My school also wanted to get a jump start on implementing the Common Core Standards. We started with language arts last year and we will add on math this year. The difficulty I am having is the way in which they are helping us implement the new standards. They provided a two day conference that covered all of the Common Core standards, including the reasons behind it and how to understand them. Needless to say this was an overwhelming and exhausting two days. Throughout the school year the district provided us with a "Scope and Sequence" sheet of paper to guide us through each Houghton Mifflin week. We met as a school once a month to dissect a common core standard. The trouble I had was that,meeting as a whole school, we were not able to really ask questions and discuss specific ways to implement these skills. I think using this time for PLC would have been more effective.

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I work in the 5th largest school district in the country and we are almost complete in converting to the CCSS. As a first grade teacher, I had to jump in with the CCSS right away. Without my PLC, I have no idea how I would have been able to manage such a change. We create common assessments for the standards, pull resources together sine our required curriculum does not fully support the common core and do not have money to adopt a new curriculum, and discuss data to improve student learning. Next year I will be in charge of our PLCs and with a large turnover in teachers this year, we will have 4 new teachers added to our grade level. I will definitely have to stick to the main ideas of a PLC to make sure our new teachers can keep up.

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I do not understand why the CCSS was not implemented nationwide. It would be beneficial to all students, especially those who migrate, to be able to continue with the same type of curriculum standards and implementation.

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My school gradually implemented the CCSS last year. All year long we worked on creating I CAN statements, rather then focusing on the what the standards really meant. This year grades K-6 have 100% implemented the common core in math and ELA at my school district. We have an entirely new administration staff,new superintendent and new principals for all 4 schools. We have begun unpacking the standards and are really trying to focus on what the standard is really trying to get the children to understand. We have also started creating common formative assessments and discussing our data. I believe that through PLC our CCSS implementation will continue to be a success.

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My school is implementing CCSS by 2014. We have not been trained in Science or Social Studies. The focus seems to be on ELA and Math. I think this will make us unprepared when the time comes to implement the new standards. I am also hoping the school can supply the teacher with the resources that are needed to implement this.

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My school is starting to implement CC in k-6th grade by 2014. What I don't like about it is that we only did the Math and LA ones. We didn't do the Science or Social Studies. I think it is not worth doing it if you don't do all of it. I do like how it puts more pressure on the parents at a younger age to get them learning. I don't like how ever school, grade level, district, state have different unpacking standards. I feel like if it is this detailed already then just tell me what to teach and when to teach it and how to teach it.

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Stephanie M

Common Core presents a new opportunity to redesign PLC teams in order to take advantage of the new instructional demands. Because the common core content may be viewed as a radical shift in content knowledge and delivery, one may consider seeking out site-based instructional experts to join PLC conversations. These experts may include teachers with deep experience in cross-curricula instruction. Though there may be a tendency to spend large chucks of time unpacking the CCSS and doing aligning, it would be a mistake to neglect keeping student work at the center of the conversation. Even at the outset, student work will be integral to interpreting how the common core translates into practice, which is the centerpiece of effective PLCs. Additionally, now more than ever, a laser-like focus on strategies and the importance of questioning techniques will be critical to this transition to new standards. Furthermore, cross-content and interdisciplinary teaching will likely become a necessity. Thorough training and ample reflective action-research is critical for this new way of teaching and learning.

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All replies are great.but i think now the day's their would be problem about many students kid can problem over maths subject so its need to improvement
math for grade 1 to Grade 12

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Wow, after reading these posts, I am realizing that my district/school administration has done very little to help teachers transition into the CC standards. I will bring it up to my principal and, hopefully, we can get a plan of action going. This would be a great focus during our PLC time. My district is overdue for a reading and math adoption. These new programs will definitely help with the transition as long as they are aligned!

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My district has given us very little information about the CC for math, and I am very concerned after reading a few postings here. We were just this week given a copy of the new curriculum a team within our district developed with the new standards and that is it. No professional development - no real guidance. We do meet in PLCs in my grade level and after reading these postings, I am thinking we should change our direction to CC for math and help each other out since administration doesn't seem to be doing anything. YIKES!!

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My school district in Maryland has begun implementing CC for math. Some teachers had PD for 2 days over the summer and others are taking the crash course PD now, while trying to implement. Needless to much frustration about resources and next step questions. Our facilitators seemed to be learning as they went as well. Thought the math VC has been aligned with CC standards as of this year. Throw out the text book, or use it as a resource for review/homework was the message we were given. A new series/ publisher will be in place next year.

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My school has implemented the CC this school year. It has been a rigorous process since we have to change our report cards to reflect what we are now teaching and expecting from our students. We started our PLC journey 3 years ago and I could not imagine going through the process of implementing CC without have PLC a part of our schools. Although we are still on the PLC journey we are making progress and every year our students success levels grow!

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My school started implmenting the CCLS in the 2010-11 school year and since then we've made some real progress. We had PLC team work on creating a new curriculumn map for literacy in our school in which we chose our own standards and created mini-lesson that correlated with the standards. That way we knew we covered everything through out the year for all grades. The math portion of it has been very difficult due to tight funding and our city providing math workbooks that are not correlated into math modules (Everyday Math). We hope that the city will provide us with newer materials in the next year.

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My school has started to implement Common Core and the Frameworks this year. We have lost considerable number of staff members and while our student population is low, it is very high need. Nearly 35% of our student body recieves special education services and we are in a push to go "full inclusion". I was hoping someone might have some insight as to how to ease some of the tensions between the special and general educators when collaborating in PLCs. Currently, when IEP meetings are held and decisions made based on students needs, the general educators become passive aggressive and make comments like, "it doesn't matter as long as they are not self-contained". I understand that the Common Core requires a whole different level of preparation, but it's my duty to make sure all students are included. How can I get past the blame game and get into real collaboration?

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My school has also started implementing Common Core and the Frameworks this year. Teachers are struggling to find time to do all the extra work required and having an even harder time trying to find the balance between last years standards and this years frameworks. There seems to be a huge gap between the two. It is very encouraging and helpful to see what ideas have been posted and I can not wait to go back and share with my coworkers.

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Is there any chance you are willing to share the games that were formulated to help you navigate through CC? I understand the frustration with CC is immense and anything will help. I am an 8th grade math teacher and we just started looking into a new mapping curriculum this year for CC. How am I supposed to map if I do not know what resources will be available to me? My entire math department is racking our brains. We are beyond confused and frustrated. Please offer help and any suggestions for getting comfortable with CC!!

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I think it is a wonderful that your school system has established PLC that allow you to work with other teachers on your grade level. In addition focusing on specific areas of CCSS and elements that are essential to the CCSS and student achievement.

It is obvious that your system realizes the importance of a healthy positive PLC. Thank you for sharing.

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My school is currently implementing danielson common core and framworks. Our pricipal has desinated a PLC period 50 mintues a week for teachers utilize this time and work together. I'am a physical education/health teacher so I do not belong to one speafic group.My pricipal says just pick a group and share any helpful imput. In some of the groups I particpated in the teachers are just arguing and complaining about classroom and school issues. Any suggestions?

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Our school is currently implementing the Common Core. We utilize PLC time to review the common core and develop common formative assessments. Some grade level teachers are great at collaborating during this time and their focus is on student learning. Unfortunately there are a few teachers who do not work collaboratively with their team. It is difficult to address this issue being that there are only two teachers per grade level. Does anyone have suggestions on how to get these teachers on board?

It seems to me that it should come from administration but it has been a problem since last year. As a colleague what can I do to help the other teachers that are on board with PLCs?

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I think this question is appropriate. I have been on interview committees and you will find that most schools are looking for teachers that are willing to collaborate. The district I work in includes the special education teachers in our designated PLC time. This gives support to each other so that all students are learning.

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Some states have third-grade “reading guarantees,” but what about the rest of the K-12 sequence? Will going from sixth grade to seventh hinge on a student having mastered the Common Core standards for sixth? What about entering high school? Earning a diploma? Will this continue to be based on Carnegie units and course credits or on actual mastery? (And what about subjects outside ELA and math?) What does Common Core portend for the two dozen or so states with high-school-graduation tests that are pegged to yesterday’s ninth- or tenth-grade expectations?

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Common Core implementation has been a dicussion since last spring around my school. I like how your district rolled the Common Core out slowly. Teachers would be able to feel more comofortable with what they are teaching. It is always nice to have teammates to collaborate and plan with. My team is my rock, and we work together well. We currently meet on Mondays for a data session with our adminstration, and Tuesday through Thursday is specifid subject area planning. Since we are all teaching the same standards nationwide, do you think that teahcers should also receive the same training?

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I currently teach at a school were we have fully implemented the Common Core (CC). I was a little apprehensive at first, because it was new and a lot of information. Our Professional Learning Community (PLC) has been preparing for two years to get ready for this academic year.
The CC training started off in house. Our literacy and math facilitators implemented our introduction to the CC. They informed us how to read each section and what the letters in each category meant. Then had us color code each section for easy maneuvering throughout the large CC binder. We were led into different sections by fun and interesting games formulated to make us feel comfortable navigating through each section. Some of the games were scavenger hunts, jeopardy and even family feud. Each game lent itself to helping us become more familiar with the CC.
The last two summers, teachers from each grade level were divided up to receive training in each subject area and become a master of sorts for their chosen subject. The first summer I took three days of Science Professional Development (PD) and this past summer I took PD for a week learning more about the math CC.
We continue our training once a month in CC and are able to choose any PD monthly that will align with CC. Also, once a quarter we have a full day of training at school with our entire grade level family to align our upcoming lessons with CC. We meet weekly for each subject, during our planning time to make sure our lessons are CC based and we are meeting the needs of our students.
I am glad our introduction to CC was gradual and the PD given was informational, fun, and rewarding. To be a school thrown into CC without training would have been frustrating. Our school is on the right path!

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ms jones

To begin with, I am a supporter of commom core and it is good to be a part of a school district that has impelemented this initiative. As I am reading the comments, I am noticing that CC is being used in conjunction with PLC's. I am new to the state that I am currently teaching in and this year is the beginning of implementing the common core on the K-2nd grade level. The only insevice we have had was at the beginning of this school year. Last year the school participated in PLC's, however, those were not too effective.

I certainly am not meaning to sound like a critic but I would like to get feedback from those who have been implementing common core and PLC's for a while.

If a school is not effective in/with their PLC's how effective will the implementation of CC be?

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Implementation of common core standards is a topic of concern it seems for school districts all around the country. It is comforting to know that so many others are dealing successfully with the transition process. In our middle schools, we are currently piloting new ELA units developed over the summer. At first, I was fully on-board with the new plans, but the lack of choice in reading content at the middle school level is leaving me frustrated. The frustration some teachers are having is that in an effort to aide teachers in this transition, much of our autonomy and individuality has been removed by an overly scripted unit plan. My question for this PLC is, are other districts over-compensating in this way? What suggestions could I bring to the unit planning committee for a more equitable treatment of the CCSS that does not "tie the hands" ELA teachers? I like the format of the new standards, which I believe give teachers more freedom. It just doesn't seem that my district is viewing them through this same lens.

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I think that it would be a great question to ask in an interview. It would give you the opportunity to show what you know about PLC's and how they work. If they do not have PLC's in action in at the school you are interviewing for, they might put you in charge of helping them develop the program. That would be a great way to get into the door.

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I teach high school Biology. Our school is on our 3rd year of using the PLC program. Last year they tried really hard to give all of the core subject teachers at least one planning period the same so we could get together to hold our meetings. That seemed to work well. This year we have far more students taking Biology and several of us teachers have to teach 4 classes one day and 3 the next. That means we only get 1.5 hrs of planning every other day. This has made it impossible to meet during our planning blocks. That means that we have to meet after school. We scheduled our meetings for the entire year at the beginning of school, but already things, such as other school meetings, have trumped us. We try to meet during our lunch time to discuss issues, but that can be tough, too. Any suggestions from some of you who have run into the same issue? Thanks

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I am impressed with the ease in which your staff is transitioning into the common core standards. I have been feeling overwhelmed by the transition as I have just returned to a public school after teaching at a charter for five years that had chosen to virtually ignore the existence of these new standards. My current school will begin having PLC time twice a month during our early release times to make sure we are all prepared for the transition and to allow us to discuss and plan for floating students through multi grade level and needs based enrichment groups. I will take your ideas and more information from this site, to my principal as I feel they could really help us communicate and focus as a staff. Thank you for sharing your success story.

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Thank you so much for your response!

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Our school is slowly implementing the common core standards as well. Teachers here have not had many opportunities to collaborate or reflect together, so its great to find a PLC that is focused on something needed. I will share the information I find on here with my collegues.

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There are a lot of oppertumities to teach others with this degree, you can also help to see what works best for your classroom or your school with the technology you are learning. Reflective practice for continuous learning. In Reflective practice to improve schools: An action guide for educators (pp. 1–29, 2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press).

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Lola Falangi

This blog on PLC is wonderful. I am glad I found it. I want to share by PLC success story. I have been teaching mathematics for 23 years and the most reflective time in my teaching career is occurring now.

I have been fortunate enough that three years ago, my administration has organized and continues to provide Professional Learning Communities (PLC) between the Algebra I teachers twice per week. This time with my PLC group has offered me the greatest growth as an educator. In our school we are asked to address the following topics in PLC: curriculum, data analysis, assessment, instruction, individual student’s needs, and students’ needs as a group. PLC provides me time to work with my colleagues collaboratively all for the common goal of effective student learning. On a personal note, I have learned a lot in the area of technology from the least seasoned teacher in the group. I believe, from me, he has learned a lot in the area of pedagogy. Without this collaborative reflection, this might not have occurred.

The PLC Algebra teachers most recently compared a topic from three different books that are addressing the Common Core Standards. We will need to purchase one of them. The lesson we looked at in all three involved solving literal equations. During PLC time we were afforded the opportunity to see which book did it best and discussed the pros and cons of each of their lessons. We tried it in our classrooms and then came back to our PLC to discuss the pros and cons of this book’s approach. This important “technical reflection” (York-Barr, J., Sommers, W. A., Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Reflective practice for continuous learning. In Reflective practice to improve schools: An action guide for educators (pp. 1–29, 2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press)
allowed us to examine if the lessons’ methods were appropriate for our students’ needs.
This opportunity would never have occurred without formally scheduled PLC time.

My administration has also managed to give us one time per month to analyze data to measure students’ growth. We call this time “data-teams Tuesday”. What is difficult about this is that it is only once per month and we find ourselves planning in our own time for things related to this. The possibilities I see in this becoming even more effective for teachers is if we can have a 2nd data meeting per month. However, it is the opportunity that is getting us talking with our colleagues about student growth and the strategies we need to implement to have this occur. This year, our principal sits in our meetings and provides his guidance which is a role a principal needs to take in order to be a good leader. I feel fortunate that he sits in with us and provides his input. Teacher roles in our data team are important, but his role as a leader is also critical to the data team success and reflective practice. He has taken such an important role with us be a part of data teams that it helps us feel less isolated in the goal of heading towards student success. After all, we all need to work together to impact our student learning.

These data teams and PLC’s provide many benefits, but the most personal to me is that I no longer feel isolated. I feel connected to my colleagues and this year even connected to my principal due to the common planning reflection time I have been given.

Since I have been in teaching (remember 23 years) I have not experienced anything as wonderful as the Professional Learning Community. If you have been in teaching long enough you will have seen new (and some recycled) ideas. Some have stayed and some have gone (because they did not work). This once works. I have no doubt it is here to stay. One period in PLC has been better than any professional development workshop that I have ever been to.

After having left many workshops, I have not always been able to implement what I have learned as it did not have a direct connection to something currently going on in my classroom. PLC has an immediate and daily effect on my teaching. It truly does improve student learning.

For "believer" from October 8 post, I do believe it would be ok for you to ask that in an interview question. It shows your willingness to work with your staff.

For "k. Monroe" from the October 8 post, I think the best way to go about starting PLC in your school is to go to your administrator who does the scheduling and show him a schedule that works. Often times administrators don't implement something because they have enough to do already. If you show him a time in the schedule where it would work, perhaps they would be more open to the idea. Another way is to do PLC on your own time with another colleague who is willing to give up their own time. Keep a journal (on a google.doc like our team does or paper and pencil) with data and reflections. After a few months, show your administrator the work you have done and they might be more willing to implement something they know is successful. I would also give them a "what and how" concise/one-page write up of PLC's so that they know what it is all about.

Also, I am only participating on an Algebera I PLC. There are other PLC's in our school. The new one this year is the AP teacher PLC. However, there are many more. I think I have a very evolved school


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I am a Special Education Teacher and would definitely like to work for a school that implements a PLC. I love the support of good collaboration, especially teaching special needs students. I really think it would help improve student learning. I was wondering if this would be an appropriate question during an interview, to ask if they have a school or district wide PLC? The opinion of another educator would be much appreciated.

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I just had a question that I thought you may know because of your accomplishments within your career. If I am currently earning my Masters in Integrating Technology in the Classroom k-12, what exactly can I do within the school district. I live in Missouri and was wondering if there was something else I could do within a school district to aid educators in technology. I currently teach science but I am not really interested in technology. Do you have any insight on the topic?
Also my second question currently regards students interest in science. My thought would be the career aspect. I allow students to research on a science career that they may be interested in and then they would present the information they found to their classmates. The students would gather degree, time, salary, decription, ect information. Then the classmates as well as my self would have the opportunity to ask any questions that may arise. I believe that this project is a great on because it would allow myself as an educator to see the passion of a students in their career that they chose while they are educating the class.

I just wonder what the thoughts are of any other educator.

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I am currently at a Private School that currently does not have any PLCs. This is my third year here and I am basically the only person teaching science (to all grade levels) of our lower school. Furthermore, this being only my fourth year as an educator and I am in need of a support group. My first school used PLCs and I was a huge fan. We would meet as a grade-level and then as a curricular group.

I am wondering what your thoughts are about the best way to go about setting up a PLC in my current school. My principal is very wary of requiring teachers to meet together, even for faculty meetings so I am not sure how to approach her. I am wondering how successful it could be as a volunteer group for teachers who want feedback or to develop common approaches. We often share information, but we are vary rarely asked to work together. Furthermore, does a PLC group need to have only those that teach a common subject matter or grade-level?

Thank you.

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Our district has spent the last several years learning about Professional Learning Communities (PLC) practices and creating systems that allow for collaboration at grade-level meetings, cross-grade-level school building meetings, and district level meetings. As a first year graduate student, I am examining PLC work and strategies that lend themselves to improving student learning. Many of the articles, forms, and tools on this website are resources that are used by my district and building. After exploring the website, I have been provided a deeper understanding of my district’s basis for the framework that has been established.

This year our focus has shifted from looking at our district “priority standards” (which were created three years ago as a result of our PLC work) to looking at the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). We actually began the process last year by comparing the two standards, understanding that we would have to embrace (and let go) of certain elements that we had previously focused upon. As teachers, this is a very difficult thing to do. For example, our kindergarten math curriculum is heavily focused upon patterns. This is no longer a focus in the CCSS, and has been a hot topic at both district and building levels. Our district is preparing to adopt a new math curriculum that will align with the CCSS and provide teachers with a resource that will teach to the new standards. Until then, our building and district PLC work will involve creating common assessments and lessons that help support the CCSS.

I also cannot imagine navigating the new standards without built-in PLC time. Our district provides a 1.5 early release Wednesday for the purpose of PLC meetings. During our team time are able to develop grade-level SMART goals that align with the CCSS, along with strategies to meet the goals. Every fourth Wednesday, we examine data to help us plan for the next area of focus. In addition, we share out with other grade levels at our bi-weekly staff meetings. Our monthly district trainings are entirely focused on the CCSS, providing us with time and resources to begin implementation. I feel confident with the approach our district is taking with transitioning into CCSS. I am anxious to receive curriculum that supports our work.

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I was pleasantly surprised to hear that you are from a school where there are no CC implementation jitters. Within our school system Pre-K-1st began using CC last year, during the 2011-2012 school year, 2nd-3rd began this year in the 2012-2013 school year and next year all the grades will be participating. I teach fourth grade and already my partner and I have been implementing many of the things we will need to next year for CC, just to get a jump start.

There has been many worries, even though we have had multiple professional development opportunities on the topic. Most of these, however, are just the stress of something new. The county has made many changes to go along with CC that add to that stress.

I plan on bringing your advice/knowledge on what your school is doing to my principal and make suggestions in that area. The last thing we need is for teachers to be stressed out and if I can help, using your advice, I will.

Thanks for posting!

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The way you are breaking down Common Core implementation definitely sounds like a less overwhelming process than going about implementing everything, all at once.

My school district is approaching implementation in a similar fashion at the elementary school. This year we are implementing CC for math. We had a three day workshop over the summer discussing how CCSS for Math are different than current standards for each grade level and were given time to work with our grade levels to begin developing the new curriculum.

Our elementary school has common planning periods for each grade level every day and we are able to utilize them much like your PLC team collaboration time. It is incredibly helpful to have time to work with the other teachers in my grade level on a regular basis.

Each grade level has also been granted an entire day for professional leave toward the end of each quarter to get together and have an extended amount of time to focus on the next quarter's goals, lessons, activities, and assessments for math. It was wonderful to devote a whole day with colleagues to planning and preparation as opposed to our hour of time here and there. We were able to stay focused and accomplish a great deal together.

Of course, there are still challenges and it is definitely a learning process, but overall our district has been able to start implementing CCSSM bit by bit. I have overheard teachers comment on how their students seem to be enjoying and understanding mathematical concepts more than in years before. I hope implementation of CCSSM and CCSS for ELA (2013-2014) continues to be a positive experience and continues to improve student learning and growth as both teachers and students become more committed to and familiar with the new processes.

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