Change and Common Core Standards Implementation

Thankfully, Commissioner John King will restart his Common Core forums this week beginning with a presentation at Myers Middle School in the Albany City School District this afternoon. I’m relieved and heartened he is resuming the important work of getting the message out and discussing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with community members across the state. The CCSS implementation is a dramatic, far-reaching standardization initiative that bodes well for our P-12 education system now and for years to come. CCSS brings a rigor and shift in instruction our schools desperately need to graduate students ready and able to contribute to a democratic lifestyle and compete globally in literacy, math, science, and arts. At this point in the change cycle, we need our Commissioner and other key leaders to be visible and responsive across the state to ease concerns as districts struggle with the processes of reform.

Speaking of change, when considering the volatility of Race to the Top on schools and communities, it’s helpful to reflect on Dr. John Kotter’s Eight Steps of Change:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create the guiding coalition
  3. Develop a change vision
  4. Communicate the vision for buy-in
  5. Empower broad-based action
  6. Generate short-term wins
  7. Never let up
  8. Incorporate changes into the culture

Or, think of lessons from Michael Fullan’s Change Forces:

  1. You can’t mandate what matters (The more complex the change the less you can force it)
  2. Change is a journey not a blueprint (Change is non-linear, loaded with uncertainty and excitement and sometimes perverse)
  3. Problems are our friends (Problems are inevitable and you can’t learn without them)
  4. Vision and strategic planning come later (Premature visions and planning blind)
  5. Individualism and collectivism must have equal power (There are no one-sided solutions to isolation and group think)
  6. Neither centralization nor decentralization works (Both top-down and bottom-up strategies are necessary)
  7. Connection with the wider environment is critical for success (The best organizations learn externally as well as internally)
  8. Every person is a change agent (Change is too important to leave to the experts, personal mindset and mastery is the ultimate protection)

There are other models for change, but the point is change is complicated, hard, and messy. Change takes time and patience, and change is oftentimes hardest on the individuals bringing about its implementation.

Thank you John King. Thank you to your administrative cabinet and staff who are doing their finest to create an exemplary public school system. And thank you for pushing us to do our best. Peace.

Fullan, M. (1993). Change forces: Probing the depth of educational reform. London: Falmer Press.

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