Common Core and the Productive Struggle: Paving the Way for Latino Students

By Ingrid Anderson, Instructional Leadership Coach-PUC Schools, Los Angeles, CA
(This was first posted to the Latino School Leaders blog, an NCLR Education project)

According to the 2010 census, the Latino population had a 37 percent increase since 2000, boasting the largest growth of any ethnic group. In support of social justice in our country, Latino students deserve equal access to the college and career of their choice. However, only 56 percent of Latino students graduate from high school on time compared to 77 percent of their White peers. By uniting together in an effort to tackle this challenge, states are adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as a way to set the bar high for all. The CCSS is an exciting opportunity for all Latino students to be held to high expectations and have access to the educational resources and support they deserve. Across the nation, school districts and charter management organizations are analyzing how the adoption of CCSS will demand significant shifts in the way teachers think about, design and deliver instruction to students. At Partnerships to Uplift Communities (PUC) in Los Angeles, they are working together to embrace this transition.

In the awareness phase of the Common Core transition, PUC Schools have engaged in a few key actions on the road to full implementation in 2014-2015.

First, the instructional team has facilitated three content-specific professional developments across the network, bringing together all similar content teachers to dive into the instructional shifts and foundations of the Common Core. Our teachers and leaders had some insightful things to say about the CCSS when they came together to learn more about it.

“The work towards transitioning to the Common Core has created a great sense of excitement and anticipation in our teachers. They are eager to take on the new challenge and teach the curriculum in a way that is truly aligned to college readiness and success.” Leslie Chang, Instructional Leader-CALS Charter Middle School

“I am so excited to see that students will be required to use primary sources to think critically.” Ruby Hernandez, 7th grade history teacher-Excel Charter Academy

“I am looking forward to see an emphasis on reading across all content areas so we can all support literacy.” Nancy Montoya, 7th grade ELA teacher-Excel Charter Academy

“Sitting side by side with teachers as we begin the transition to Common Core has been amazing. The teachers that I am working with feel that we are finally going to be able to teach what truly matters in preparing our students to be successful in college and in life. The excitement is palpable.” Dr. Manuel Ponce, Jr., Principal-Lakeview Charter Academy

PUC math teachers collaborating as they dig into the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Second, PUC has formed a Common Core Strategy Team that consists of 1-2 teacher representatives from each of the 13 school sites. The three objectives for the team are:

  1. Develop a three-year strategic plan to guide us toward the development of more authentic assessments aligned to the newly adopted common core and correlating assessments.
  2. Discuss how to improve our existing system in the short-term to ensure that our assessments are aligned with our teaching values and provide valuable and accurate data about our teaching and student learning.
  3. Serve as researchers and incubators of the Common Core State Standards and correlating instructional practices.

Finally, PUC has partnered with the Center for College and Career Readiness to become Black Belt certified for Common Core Implementation at multiple levels. Currently, the senior leadership and instructional team have begun their certification as the senior cabinet and are paving the way to refining PUC’s vision as they strive and plan for sustainable change. All principals and assistant principals will begin training in June and all sites will incorporate the teacher certification into their professional development for the 2013-2014 school year to ensure teachers are provided with timely support and resources.
The Common Core Strategy Team joins together to plan for Common Core transition.

To set a true example, our CEO Dr. Jaqueline Elliot is engaging in the work with her sleeves rolled up.

“Common Core represents the next step in the very exciting wave of school reform that is enveloping our country at this time. As we all know, this is coming not a moment too soon,” said Elliot. “I am thrilled to be able to sit side by side with every leader and teacher in PUC as we engage in preparation for the launch of Common Core aligned standards instruction.”

Everyone at PUC is enthusiastically anticipating the productive struggle associated with the Common Core and ready to raise the bar. These high expectations are just what our Latino students need in order to provide an equal opportunity to truly be college and career ready.

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