It was hot when we left Denver on June 18, but is was hot and sticky when we arrived in Atlanta with minutes to spare prior to the opening of the My Group Genius National Convening at the Marriott Marquis. Approximately 20 Thompson educators, administrators and Superintendent Ron Cabrera made the trek to Atlanta funded by our philanthropic grantors, the Colorado Legacy Foundation. This was an exciting pilgrimage for our group as it was an opportunity to collaborate and learn from other participants engaged in work of systematically integrating the Common Core State Standards in Math and English Language Arts, Science and Social Studies.
During the intensive three day convening, Thompson educators along with members of the Colorado Integration Project districts and educators from New York, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Ohio, and Florida engaged in a dynamic gathering of people from diverse backgrounds dedicated to changing lives through changing education practice. The conversations focused on what was working for the districts that were using the Math Design Collaborative and Literacy Design Collaborative tools, and what wasn’t. Our opportunity to engage in these conversations was critical, as many of the participants were a year ahead of us in their implementation. Colorado, being in the second wave of pilot states engaging in this national work, was able to learn from others and bring our own learning to the table as well.
The Math Design Collaborative (#mathcollab on Twitter) is a network of teachers using sets of Formative Assessment Lessons developed by the Shell Center for Mathematical Education. All the tools developed and piloted will eventually be available to all educators, around the globe, for free. This open source idea is mirrored in the work of the Literacy Design Collaborative (#litcollab on Twitter), which supports teachers as they learn to design powerfully engaging and rigorous modules of instruction based on the new Common Core standards in literacy.
The Common Core State Standards were designed to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers” (CCSS, 2012). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has set an ambitious K-12 education goal: to graduate all students college-ready. Currently, only a third of American students graduate on-time with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed beyond high school. Gates has strategically focused on effective teaching, strong standards, curriculum and assessments as the path to raise the level of learning in our schools.
Furthermore, the Gates foundation believes in providing high level support to the school and district leaders who are tasked with the responsibility of making this work flourish in their professional communities. And so, during the convening while there were breakout collaboration sessions for the math and literacy teachers, there were also interactive sessions for the administrators. In order to support teachers, administrators need a strong understanding of world class instruction, formative assessment, and engaging curriculum design as well as the organizational structures they must support to make this happen.
In November, 2011 the Colorado Legacy Foundation named Thompson School District an integration partner and provided $1.7 million in monies to support Colorado’s Educator Effectiveness goals. “With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy” (CCSS, 2012). With Thompson students prepared for their future, we fulfill the duty to our community as public school educators.