Common Core implementation, approaches vary by state, according to research

common-coreResources and tools for Common Core abound, but it’s time to gauge how implementation is really going, according to some stakeholders.

Part of that motivation, according to the Chief Council of State School Officers (CCSSO), is to obtain an accurate picture of states’ efforts amid the vigorous support for, and backlash against, the Common Core State Standards.

CCSSO, which has led the creation of the Common Core along with the National Governors Association, partnered with four state education leaders to examine those states’ progress.

Here’s how four states have approached Common Core implementation.

North Carolina

North Carolina adopted the Common Core in 2010 and spent two years building capacity in schools and districts before implementation in 2012.

(Next page: North Carolina’s Common Core approach)

Sixteen Regional Professional Development Leaders work with school leaders and teachers to implement and understand the Common Core. Each state district identifies a team that heads up its Common Core efforts, and those teams include teacher-leaders, content-area specialists, and administrators.

Team members create district implementation plans and assist with the actual implementation and professional development.

Overall, more than 50,000 educators have been trained in Common Core since 2010, and more than 90 Common Core workshops have been held.

The state’s Department of Public Instruction has collected almost 3,500 online instructional resources to help educators in the Common Core transition.

“Implementing any new standards, which are more rigorous, really is a challenge,” said June Atkinson, the state’s Superintendent of Public Schools. Such a transition requires professional development, resources, and a structure that will sustain professional development in a meaningful way.

“We want North Carolina students to be successful once they leave our schools–we want them to have options,” she said.


Tennessee invested in peer-led, multi-day educator trainings since 2012, and almost 75 percent of administrators in the state have received Common Core training.

More than $26 million has been spent on transitioning to online assessments. The state’s Common Core site,, offers pacing guides, sample lessons and units, and other resources.

More than 30 district and school administrators formed the Common Core Leadership Council, which helps teachers as they teach with a new curriculum and under the new standards.

Since the state began its Common Core transition, students demonstrated higher achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress than any other state, according to state data, and this growth also was reflected on the state’s standardized test.

“Tennessee has without a doubt spent more time, energy, [and] money on this transition to Common Core than on any previous standards work in the history of the state,” said Kevin Huffman, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education.

About 40,000 teachers have been trained on Common Core standards and implementation so far.


More than 400 Maryland teachers have been trained as members of the state’s Educator Effectiveness Academies and College- and Career-Ready Conferences to serve as master teachers and content experts in their districts.

A leadership team from each school, made up of a principal, English/language arts teacher, math teacher, and STEM teacher, attends a four-day summer training session and online follow-up sessions during the school year.

These leadership teams help to develop and implement professional learning systems within their schools. This is buoyed by state-led supports that align directly with educators’ Common Core requirements.

Available online resources include curriculum and instruction design guidance, webinars, and local resources.

The state has paid particular attention to educators’ ability to differentiate instruction for students with special needs, struggling learners, and English language learners.

Maryland has rebranded the Common Core as the Maryland College- and Career-Ready Standards in order to help parents and communities understand why there is a need for more rigorous standards, said Lillian Lowery, Maryland’s State Superintendent of Schools.

“Our key word is collaboration–everybody works together to get this work done,” Lowery said.

New Mexico

The New Mexico Educator Leader Cadre aims to support educators and provide clear and easy communication about the Common Core. It includes 24 district and school leaders, instructional coaches, and teachers.

The state also is ensuring that teacher prep programs in higher education institutions across the state are training future teachers in Common Core standards and corresponding practices.

Eighty-one percent of the state’s districts are participating in Common Core training that includes a two-day summit, targeted workshops, and online support.

Because the state has a high percentage of English language learners and parents whose first language is not English, it has translated Common Core materials and information into Spanish.

One key to New Mexico’s success with implementation concerns funding.

“We consistently set aside in our budget not just our traditional professional development dollars, but a specific set-aside dedicated to the Common Core,” said Hanna Skandera, New Mexico Secretary of Education.

“Engaging our educators early…and keeping them as part of the training and professional development, I think, has been really important,” she said.

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Laura Ascione
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