Capitalizing on the ‘Core’ in Common Core Standards

Recent Comments

    Last year our district started our roll out of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). During our preparation we were having conversations about making explicit connections between the CCSS and our work to date with our multi-tiered system. We knew it would be important because, after all, when we talk about Response to Intervention (RtI) or a multi-tier system of supports (MTSS), we are talking about our educational system as a system. The way we use research and data to direct our efforts and practices, how we systematically engage in problem-solving at different levels, and, most importantly, how we embrace the education and learning of each child put in our care. The new CCSS merely provides us a differently packaged set of learning outcomes for students K-12. They outline what students should know and be able to do upon leaving school to be career and college ready. While many of us were very pleased and impressed with the CCSS compared to the standards and objectives we had been operating from for years, the immediate response from some educators has had little to do with the new standards and more to do with the conditioned response in education that we are now “switching gears” with our efforts.

    I should have been quicker to anticipate this response. It has been customary in our field that we engage in change like we adopt textbooks—we use the new series until the newer series comes and then we box up the old materials and send them to the warehouse. What has impressed me so much about our efforts with MTSS is that we have clear signs of embedded practices and routines that support sustainability. While we are pleased that we have many embedded practices, we have to continue to be preventive and responsive to signs of those who assume we are moving away from RtI now that we are implementing the new CCSS. In this blog, I share some thoughts for leadership and professional development in preparation for the school year. I’d enjoy hearing the direction others have, or are, heading with this! I’m framing my thoughts based on the core principles of RtI that was published in one of the early guidance documents widely distributed throughout the United States by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (Batsche et al., 2006).

    We Can Effectively Teach All Children

    We’ve had some very important discussions over the past several years about how to address issues of efficacy and proper support for general educators in meeting the needs of each learner in their classroom. We are emphasizing at the first new teacher gathering the importance of their role in being each child’s first teacher. One of the important areas of staff development with CCSS is understanding when and how to scaffold instruction. We are revisiting the importance of intentional planning, using what we know of each student’s strengths to plan appropriate scaffolds, and most importantly, when to fade scaffolds as students begin to demonstrate command of the skill with support. While this, overall, is a significant staff development area of focus as teachers think of the broad and growing diversity of students they have in their class, it also provides an important opportunity for special and general educators to collaborate as they plan for meaningful involvement of students with disabilities during core instruction.

    Use Evidence-Based Practices

    Because the CCSS don’t tell us how to teach, the standards position us perfectly to reemphasize the evidence-based practices that many of us have carefully selected and focused on during RtI implementation. Making this connection helps colleagues and parents understand that our efforts are more like the planets aligning than they are the pendulum swinging. We have been emphasizing the empirical evidence that supports the practices we have been focusing on with the work of John Hattie in his publications, Visible Learning and Visible Learning for Teachers (Hattie 2009 and 2012). In his first publication, Hattie shared the effective sizes associated with a host of practices across 800 meta-analyses. He rank ordered the practices by overall influence. We have found that his visual barometer has been an effective way to emphasize the “evidence-base” of the practice. In our current work, we are capitalizing on a particular outcome expected with the standards and talking about the teacher craft associated with student learning influenced by those most effective practices according to Hattie’s list. These would include emphasizing practices such as direct instruction, formative evaluation, feedback, reciprocal teaching, spaced practice etc.

    Use a Problem-Solving Method to Make Decisions Within a Multi-Tiered Model

    Making the use of the problem-solving process across all levels a natural process in education will likely always by my personal “quest for the holy grail.” While great strides have been made in my own district, particularly at the grade and individual student levels, I find that that using the problem-solving process requires deliberate facilitation and something many are not fond of facilitating. This will be an area needing more attention early in the year. Last year, some buildings began making a connection back to the CCSS when they conducted their data reviews and selected an area for problem solving. This was an early attempt make a connection between the CCSS and our problem-solving process as we were wrapping our head around the CCSS. This year, we need to go further. We need to strengthen how we look at our data, interpret the data by big ideas in reading, and drive the conversation to the standards and instructional practices we are using. Teachers I work with are very complimentary of the CCSS, but recognize that we need to have different discussions about curriculum, instruction, and student learning in order for students to be independent with the skills associated with making them career and college ready.

    Use a Multi-Tier Model of Service Delivery

    One of the early and ongoing discussions we are having relates to the focus of our tiered efforts. One of the first reactions by many reading specialists was that the CCSS would change the interventions and intervention approach used in our tiered system. Our initial efforts have been to understand our intervention system in the context of the CCSS. In reading, students who receive intervention are those who have not mastered the CCSS Foundation Skills outlined in the CCSS reading standards for K-5. These foundational skills include concepts of print, phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, and fluency at a level sufficient to support comprehension. This should be very familiar to those with a strong RtI intervention infrastructure. For students needing support in the area of comprehension, we are examining the strength of our interventions related to the use of text-dependent questions, close reading, engaging in efferent discussions, and strengthening written responses to material read. The timing for all of this is important. As we have grown comfortable with our intervention process, the CCSS have provided a new lens from which to examine and critique our process.

    I hope these thoughts springboard a productive conversation for you and your district or building. RtI has provided us an opportunity to design, build, and put into place a set of practices that unites and deploys resources based on student needs in a unique and powerful way. The foundation should be set to understand and move forward with the CCSS—capitalizing on the fact that the infrastructure we have been building better positions us to meet the rigor the new standards set for our students.


    Batsche, G.M., Elliott, J., Graden, J., Grimes, J., Kovaleski, J.F., Prasse, D., et al. (2005). Response to intervention: Policy considerations and implementation. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

    Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers. New York: Routledge.

    Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. New York: Routledge.
    Back To Top