First 35 Common Core Schools Named

As you can see in the attached release, CPS says that 80 schools have applied to be one of just 35 schools that will be approved to pilot the Common Core Curriculum, an effort to bring more rigor and comparability to academic standards across the nation.  There's a list at the bottom.  Is your school one of them?  What was the debate like in terms of pros and cons?


CPS CEO Brizard Praises Schools for Embracing Common Core Standards; 80 Schools Apply to be Common Core ‘Early Adopters’ Applicants will help jumpstart drive to align rigorous curriculum with longer school day
in 2012/2013 school year

CHICAGO – More than 80 Chicago Public Schools applied for one of 30 positions to serve as Early Adopters of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), underscoring a strong desire among Chicago’s principals and teachers to embrace a more rigorous curriculum to boost student achievement. These new standards, designed to prepare all students for success in college and careers, will transform the quality of instruction in all classrooms, guiding what is taught at every grade level in literacy and math.

Due to the high level of interest and the high quality of applications, the district has expanded the number of Early Adopters, selecting thirty-five schools to serve as Early Adopter “leads” and choosing another 25 as Early Adopter “support” schools. These schools are from across Chicago and represent the city’s geographic, ethnic and economic diversity.

“As the Chicago Public Schools move towards a longer school day, everyone agrees that our schools need to use the additional 90 minutes of instruction to teach a richer and more rigorous curriculum and boost student achievement in the classroom,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “Empowered school leaders are stepping up, to embrace and lead the integration of the Common Core State Standards into our district system wide next school year. Together, longer school days and Common Core curriculum will help close the achievement gap and fulfill our goal of making every CPS student college and career ready.”

Brizard has established as a key priority of a longer school day one that will include instruction that incorporates the new Common Core State Standards. Along with more time on task in reading, writing, math, science and social studies, students will also benefit from enrichment opportunities like art and music, which studies show help boost student achievement. The District intends to increase the length of the school day by 90 minutes of additional instructional time for the 2012-13 school year. CPS currently has the shortest day in the nation, short-changing both students and teachers, Brizard said.

The need for rigorous curriculum standards and a longer day to help close the achievement gap is striking. Recent data show a 31.4 percent achievement gap on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test between white and African-American elementary school students who exceed state standards.  For Hispanic students, the gap is 27.2 percentage points. The gap becomes even wider in high schools.  For high school juniors, there is a 42.1 percentage point gap between white and African-American students meeting or exceeding state standards, with a 30.9 percent gap between white and Latino students.  Furthermore, a new report from the Chicago Consortium on School Research revealed that this achievement gap is even larger today than it was 20 years ago.

CEO Brizard said he wants the District to get a jump start on having a CCSS-aligned curriculum in place in all of its schools in 2012-13, even though the state of Illinois won’t test the new Standards until the 2014-15 school year. According to the Council of Great City Schools, CPS will trail other larger urban districts and the state in preparing students to meet Common Core benchmarks if it doesn’t start now. Based on their calculations, if students were tested on the new Standards now, Chicago would have only 19 percent of students meeting expectations in comparison to the state at 46 percent.

The Early Adopter applicant pool of 83 schools included neighborhood, magnet and selective enrollment elementary schools as well as 17 CPS high schools. Thirty-five schools have been identified as Early Adopter Lead Schools—all teachers at the Lead Schools will participate in ongoing professional development and planning.  Another 25 schools will participate as Support Schools. Teacher leaders from Support Schools will participate in the quarterly work sessions with Lead schools.

One of the Early Adopter Lead Schools, Melody Elementary, is among the CPS schools that will lengthen its school day as part of the District’s Longer School Day Pioneer Program. Another school in the program, Skinner North Elementary, is a Support School.

All Early Adopter schools will create and share the examples of standards-based unit plans, grade-level tasks and exemplars of student work that will help guide schools across CPS in implementing the Common Core.  This work will be conducted through quarterly work sessions with all Common Core teachers and ongoing school-based support.

CCSS is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and educational experts. The standards are informed by the highest and most effective teaching and learning models and will provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students regardless of where they live.

Applicant schools were asked to complete essays that detail the type of work they’ve already done with better aligning their curriculum and classroom instruction to state or national standards and ensuring instruction is conducted at a high level.  Applicants also had to list the names of the administrators and teacher leaders who were committing to this work and to submit a sample that provided further evidence of the level of standards-based instruction at their schools

A committee of curriculum and leadership coaches from Network and Central offices then judged applicant schools. The committee came to consensus on the scoring criteria for the essays and artifacts and underwent training to ensure fairness and reliability in the scoring process. Top scoring candidates were reviewed to ensure adequate diversity of school types/locations and adequate representation of schools with high ELL and special education populations.

“It’s important to emphasize that all faculty members in these schools have taken on this commitment to devote additional time to conducting in-depth analysis of the quality of curriculum, instruction and the assessment of how well students have mastered the material,” Brizard said. “They have also committed to showcasing their work to the rest of the district.  These schools are to be congratulated for taking the first step in advancing the level of instructional rigor across CPS.”

Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 405,000 students in more than 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school system.

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Early Adopter Lead Schools include: George Armstrong, Barton, Brighton Park, Camras, Canter, Carter, Chalmers, Cooper, Dumas, Evergreen, Hernandez, Higgins, Hitch, Logandale, Madero, Mann, McClellan, Melody, Mitchell, Peterson, Ryder, Schubert and Tonti Elementary Schools.

Also, Amundsen, Chicago Military Academy, Clark, Clemente, Farragut, Foreman, Harper, Juarez, Lincoln Park, Multicultural, Senn and Taft High Schools.

Support Schools include: Support Schools include: Addams, Ames, Armour, Azuela, Colemon, Gallistel, Grissom, Hedges, Henderson, Herzl, Kershaw, Libby, Northwest, O.A. Thorp, Perez, Rogers, Skinner North, Walsh, and Williams Middle School.

Corliss, Daniel Hale Williams, Hirsch, Rickover, Robeson and Sullivan High Schools.


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  • this blogger says that CPS is doing it wrong, compared to other districts

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Thanks for this link, Alexander. Looks like Cleveland is on the road to doing the common core in the right way. CPS Chief of Instruction (or whatever the new title is) should read this.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    (I'm a Common Core lead at my high school and have followed the CCS since early in their development.)

    The Cleveland approach, while not flawless, at least recognizes the basic purpose of the CCS - to carefully define what students should be learning across their K-12 education. Thus, the CCS are primarily a tool for planning courses and setting objectives for students, which is where Cleveland is looking. They are not, and don't try to be, general directions for "how to teach better" or "how to be rigorous", which is what the CPS initiative imagines them to be.

    I've been to multiple Common Core meetings with network personnel since the beginning of the year, and my impression is that most of them don't even understand what CC is about. At one session, we were given examples of (what were purported to be) CCS and non-CCS instructional tasks. The "non-CCS" tasks were simple, 2 or 3 line prompts on a very narrow skill. The "CCS" tasks were complex, 1/2 page long tasks involving a great deal of reading, interpretation, and evaluation - all covering exactly the same skill as the narrow task. While the supposed CCS tasks were clearly more challenging, they were in no way more closely linked to the actual standards in the CCS documents, nor did the network personnel even make any attempt to explicitly reference those documents. What teachers *should* be doing is studying those documents, identifying the specific, big-picture skills and understandings that need to be taught and assessed, and considering how (or if) their entire school's instructional program is developing those big ideas. That's the starting point, not making individual lessons that are look "rigorous" in isolation.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Thank you very much for giving us a little insight into how the work is going. Are you getting the impression the CPS knows better and just wants to do it their way (emphasizing specific lessons over the big picture), or is that they don't actually understand? I'm very curious about their motive for the apparently micro interpretation in these critical early stages.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    The people at the top of the food chain - the ones who rarely interact directly with teachers - seem to understand what the CCS are about. What they don't get, presumably because they haven't done much of it, is what needs to happen at the faculty level and what they can do to support that. Getting teachers to be thoughtful about what they're teaching, why they're teaching it, and how they measure it is difficult. It requires a thinking process that's foreign to the "just follow the textbook program" that too many teachers are accustomed to. And sometimes it bumps into deeply held beliefs about what's valuable for students to learn. That requires serious leadership (and serious time) within the school buildings - it's a lot more than just handing the rank-and-file a new list of topics to cover for the year. No downtown/area/network person I've ever worked with has taken that task seriously, perhaps because many don't believe that teachers are capable of such work - that there's not enough talent within a building to create that culture. And, to be fair, there are cases where they'd be right. But that doesn't make playing to the lowest common denominator the right strategy either.

    The people lower down, who are actually working with the schools? They just seem generally clueless. Lots of powerpoints and templates. Not much actual thought, much less thought grounded in years of effective classroom practice.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Interesting. So perhaps the best way around these deficiencies would be for knowledgeable principals and teacher leaders to smile and nod at the clueless functionaries while developing his or her building staff in the deeper concepts.

  • Interesting that very few of the best CPS schools are on this list. I can only assume they knew better to wait.

  • Rahm your organizational chart at CPS administration does not measure up to its mission! CPS administration does not have the brain power nor successful experience on successfully implementing anything remotely to improve instruction on a systematic level. How come other successful countries implement great educational research bought by our tax dollars. Look at the Mayor and the people in his organization at the top of CPS. All are lacking in real hard won experience collaborating with teachers to move a school district forward. Sorry Chicago, Rahm is clowning you!

  • In reply to viniciusdm:

    Dear viniciusdm, yes this is true.

  • I am a teacher at one of the schools and I am pretty excited to be able to implement Common Core Standards!

  • In reply to N Serrano:

    I'm really glad you are excited about CCSS, but if you took a look at the link in Alexander's first comment, you could see how much more exciting it would be to do it right rather than the usual scatter-shot, helter-skelter style that is the hallmark of any CPS implementation. Be excited about NEW because it's BETTER. And good luck to you.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    This is true - When the dollars for wiring the schools started to flow, CPS shoved its way to the front of the line with its hand out, even though they had no coherent technology plan in place. Most of the money was squandered with little to show for it, and many vendors swindled the Board for several years til the feds told CPS that they had to step to the back of the line and allow schools that hadn't tapped funds to access them. By then CPS knew what they needed, but couldn't get funding because of their poor and greedy performance in pushing for money it had no idea how to spend. All they could think about was ninety cents on the dollar....

  • Apparently, we are damned if we don't and damned if we do. My school is on that list and I will tell you that we are all going to make sure it is done right. We are excited and our students are excited. Just because you read "an article online" doesn't make it true. And, for the poster who stated, "Interesting that very few of the best CPS schools are on this list. I can only assume they knew better to wait." Don't assume. You know what "they" say about assuming.

  • In reply to judgejury81:

    "Cleveland is using a grade-band strategy, starting with kindergarten through 2nd grade teachers. This choice was strategic for multiple reasons. First, grades K-2 are not tested, so the fact that the Common Core standards are not aligned with Ohio’s assessment system is a non-issue. Second, by starting with the youngest grades, Cleveland could build up students’ knowledge and abilities based on the Common Core and avoid the problem of holding students accountable for knowledge and skills they were supposed to have learned in earlier grades. Further, Cleveland took an entire year to build awareness and knowledge of the standards among their K-2 teaching corps, “unpack” the standards and begin sifting through available instructional materials, develop formative assessments, and revise their Scope and Sequence pacing guide. The district accomplished all of this before trying to implement the standards in the classroom. Once classroom implementation begins this year, the district has a training and support plan for all K-2 teachers and plans to collect feedback so that the Scope and Sequence can be revised and improved.
    It’s not rocket science to see the difference between Chicago’s and Cleveland’s approaches. And it’s just as easy to recognize which one is more likely to be successful."
    Sounds smarter to me, judgejury81.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Let's all remember this is CPS, where the blind lead the blinder! If it makes good sense to phase in a huge undertaking like this, it won't be done. It's like every program and new quick fix that has been dumped on schools with little or no input from teachers. As a veteran teacher, I have little faith that the adoption of common core standards will be handled well. I'm not suggesting that the teachers at the early adopter schools will not work hard to make this work, but ultimately it will rest the Board. They will manage to muck up the implementation somehow. I have spent quite a bit of time on city-wide teacher committees to work out plans, implementation schedules, etc. over the years. Once our ideas and plans went to the Board, what came out looked very little or nothing like what the committee submitted. And guess what? The programs and initiatives were usually failures and costly, in terms of both money and time.

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