Activity Guide

Common Core State Standards—Planning for Big Changes

The College Board and NASSP collaborated on a series of six webinars examining the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in depth. Reviewing the entire series can give school leaders and faculties a thorough understanding of the impact CCSS will have on schools and can be used to develop implementation plans that suit their individual schools.

The fourth webinar in this series, “Schoolwide Instructional Practices,” provides school leaders with a com-prehensive view of the “big changes” that CCSS implementation will bring to each school. The focus is on how the Common Core (CCSS) will have an impact not just on English, language arts, and math, but on instructional practices across all classes and teachers. The CCSS represent a real shift in instructional intent that will necessitate 10 major schoowide changes that will fundamentally impact the way teachers teach and the way school leaders lead their schools.


Reading: “The CCSS and Schoolwide Instructional Changes,” Principal Leadership, May 2012, pp. 88–90.

Common Core Exercise (.PDF)

Assign groups or teams (by either grade level or content area) to focus on one or more of the “big changes” detailed in the presentation:

  1. Rigor
  2. Grade-level shift
  3. Text complexity
  4. Cross-content literacy
  5. Reading
  6. Writing in content areas
  7. Student engagement
  8. Instructional time
  9. Approach to teaching
  10. Professional development

Acknowledge to participants that by themselves, each of these 10 changes will represent major initiatives in most schools. Ask them to focus in each case on one essential question: “In order to successfully implement this change, what will we have to do differently in our math (or social studies or Spanish, etc.) classes?”

Ask groups to record their thinking on charts like those in the following examples:

Subject Area: Social Studies/HistoryBig Change: Writing in Content AreasProfessional Development Notes
Teach students to write analytically about social studies text and topics.How:Create a common rubric to be used to assess analytical writing in social studies classesIdentify instructional strategies and lessons to prepare students to analyze and write about textCreate and share with colleagues sample lesson segmentsPrepare examples of good writing at this grade level and review with studentsDo teachers need training in creating/using rubrics?
Subject Area(s): AllBig Change: Instructional TimeProfessional Development Notes
How:All teachers commit to “bell-to-bell” use of instructional timeAll subject areas make use of routine that includes “bell ringer” activity at beginning of class and “knowledge retrieval” activity at conclusion of class.Explore instructional models that include time for students to practice new learning (and access teacher support) before leaving class.Some teachers already use bell ringers and knowledge retrievals like exit tickets. Can they present a workshop to familiarize the rest of the faculty with these techniques?

Faculty at every school will find that they are already fairly proficient in some of the big change areas, while less so in others. Mapping out each change, regardless of perceived levels of readiness, will assure that no detail is missed and that you are building collective staff capacity, and that is the only way to assure successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Use the planning tools for implementing successful initiatives.