Making the Common Core Standards Work: Using Professional Development to Build World-Class Schools


Robert J. Manley & Richard J. Hawkins

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    We would like to thank Kay Manley and Sue Hawkins for their love, support, and infinite patience throughout the process of writing this book.

    Bob dedicates this book to Kathryn and his children, Michael and Linda Schechter Manley, and their children, Zachary, Heather, Ethan, and Tyler and to Patrick and Barbara Harrison Manley, and their children, Jillian and Ryan. They and their cohorts are the future of our nation and our global society. We spent many hours in this labor of love in hopes that we could make a difference in the lives of teachers and students. We learned school leaders and teachers need the same caring, loving, and demanding family that children need. Much of what we propose in this book relies upon trust in each other as professionals who see our own fallibility and vulnerability as we try to improve learning for all children.

    Rich dedicates this book to his wife Sue, his daughter Jacqui, son Bob and his lovely wife Jess, and my beautiful, bright, and loving grandchildren Jack, Camryn, and Jamison. The truth be told, having grandchildren just entering or about to enter our public schools was a very real motivator for writing this book. We hope this book reveals new pathways for educational leaders and teachers in the United States to succeed where others have failed. We hope they defy gravity and inertia and use the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as an opportunity to discuss and challenge all of the political hyperbole and the preconceived notions about education that our nation holds. We hope that they integrate the common core standards into their daily lessons and develop world-class schools systemically. Our nation and grandkids are depending upon you!


    The United States of America are not united when it comes to education. We have 50 states with 50 sets of standards for their educational systems. Admittedly, the Constitution of our great country placed the obligation for the development and administration of public schools on the backs of the states. Consequently, our 50 states have fiercely guarded that prerogative in the past and, until recently, fought off attempts by our federal government to interfere in education matters.

    It was Lyndon Johnson who, in 1965, shepherded the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) through Congress, signaling the first large-scale incursion of the federal government into education. Under the civil rights banner, ESEA attempted to equalize the playing field for the children of poverty. Federal dollars would flow to school districts with large concentrations of poor children to ensure that they would have an equal opportunity to receive a quality education. For more than 30 years, school district accountability for the funds received was restricted to reports about how federal funds were spent. The districts and schools receiving federal dollars had annual reports to file with the Department of Education (DOE). With the reauthorization of ESEA, popularly known as No Child Left Behind, the federal role expanded to include all schools. Today, every public school in America must make Adequate Yearly Progress on state exams and evaluate teachers according to student performance on state and local tests.

    In recent years, the specter of global competition has extended to education with international academic competitions that do not flatter the performance of American students. By comparison to countries like Finland, Singapore, and most recently Shanghai (not a country, by the way, but a Chinese province), our students do not fare well. We can debate whether the comparisons with much smaller countries and a province are fair. At some point, we must recognize that our students participating in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) learn in 50 states with 50 different standards. It seems obvious that we would be better off if we, like the countries we compete with, had one set of national standards. Thus, the dilemma—our states do not want the federal government imposing a set of standards, yet in addition to international competitions, there are many reasons why our schools would benefit from national standards.

    The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) have been the prime movers of the common core standards, an attempt to get all 50 states to agree to a national standard for K–12 education and not one imposed by the federal government. To help expedite the process, the U.S. DOE has awarded two grants for the development of instruments that would assess student progress toward the common core standards. A number of states have adopted the standards, and many school districts are now grappling with the task of developing curriculum and instructional materials and strategies for the classroom. It is precisely at this point that Bob Manley and Rich Hawkins have authored Making the Common Core Standards Work because they want America's schools to be world-class learning centers.

    America is great. Its education system is part of that greatness. But, as Manley and Hawkins point out in this book, the measure of our greatness is changing because the world is changing. Educators have a part to play: School leaders and teachers must adapt to the new standards or fade away. The authors clearly argue why we must choose the former. They hit many topics, beginning with what the CCSS are and why they are important. They show us why we must give our children the tools to excel by elevating and transforming what we consider as the high standards of today into the basic standards of tomorrow.

    Manley and Hawkins provide a model for implementing the standards. I particularly appreciate their approach of using inquiry to promote dialogue. Throughout the process, they remain mindful of what may already exist in each school district so as not to recreate the wheel. They also provide valuable data and target specific grades and subject matters as they focus on common core implementation and its impact on curriculum and school management and culture.

    The authors acknowledge the current attacks on public education, and I agree with their point that vilifying teachers and administrators is neither the answer nor likely to facilitate change. Yes, budgets are tight. Yes, funding is limited. Tenure, performance measures, and benefit packages are key issues in the new millennium, along with student performance. But, there is one fact that is consistently ignored: America's public schools today are the best that they have ever been.

    Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for fourth and eighth grade reading and math are the highest they have ever been. Graduation rates are the highest they have ever been, while the dropout rate is the lowest. College enrollment is at an all-time high, while high school courses are the most rigorous ever. While our students' performance on the TIMSS are not as high as we would want them to be, they have improved with every administration and are above the international average. According to the most recent Gallop Poll, parents' satisfaction with the schools their children attend is the highest ever. Yet, are we satisfied with average performance? Can American schools raise student learning to competitive world standards? Yes, we can.

    We are the best that we have ever been, but we are not as good as we want to be, particularly when it comes to the education of our African American and Latino students that comprise the bulk of the population in the dropout factories of America. The CCSS could pave the way for a brighter future for American education, and Bob Manley and Rich Hawkins provide us with the practical strategies to get us there.

    —Dan Domenech
    Executive Director
    American Association of School Administrators


    This book examines the rationale for CCSS and provides readers with the means to use them to transform their schools into world-class educational institutions. We write as proponents of CCSS who recognize many of the limitations of a common core, not the least of which is that the common core is the lowest common level of performance to which teachers and school leaders should aspire. The purpose of the CCSS and their inherent strengths and weaknesses need discussion and debate. Those who will implement the CCSS must understand their strengths and weaknesses.

    We recognize that teachers, especially new and aspiring teachers, need to have a rationale and a purpose for their work with students in the CCSS. If teachers are to innovate and adapt to the learners in their classes, they must deeply understand the purpose of the common core.

    We provide school leaders with a practical guide to implement the CCSS. We write in a way so that teachers and school leaders can see clearly how they must work together to implement the common core standards and prepare students to function beyond the limits of the common core standards.

    In our effort to share a rationale and vision for the CCSS, we first help school leaders and teachers to understand why America needs common core standards and more rigorous curricula and how it is possible to have almost all of our students prepared to compete in a global economy. We distinguish common core standards from local curriculum and performance expectations. In our design for more effective schools, we see the CCSS as the framework for teacher and school leader development, innovation, and continuous improvement.

    We provide a thorough discussion of the merger of local language arts and math curricula with the CCSS. We infuse into the discussion science and social studies curricular designs and efforts by teachers to meet the writing and comprehension expectations that high-performing nations achieve with many of their students.

    We discuss challenges that school leaders and teachers face as they try to make the CCSS work in their schools. In this effort, we focus on practical methods that teachers who employ formative assessments use to guide instruction and have almost all of their students achieve mastery of their lessons. In addition, we discuss the leadership challenge to all educators, and we offer practical pathways to success.

    Diversity of ethnicity, wealth, languages, schools, and culture pose exceptional challenges in the United States. We provide a winning view of diversity and multicultural issues in our schools. We show how teachers and school leaders can experience diversity as a strength and resource within their schools. We try to show how multiculturalism can become a barrier or a resource for exceptional learning in our schools. We encourage teachers and school leaders to innovate by understanding deeply the CCSS and using the common core as a “melody line” from which they can improvise to create great “jazz” and accomplished learners.

    Finally, we provide a tried-and-true method to improve a school in the detailed outline that we share about joint intervention teams (JITs). We give school boards, principals, teachers, and parents a blueprint to construct their own self-renewing schools. We show them how to collaborate and discover their own pathways for children to explore and to master skills for future productive citizenship. We offer liberating principles that take school leaders and teachers beyond the common core standards, and we show them the mental models necessary for freedom and the pursuit of happiness far beyond the limits of public education policy. The simplistic legislative acts that federal and state agencies initiate to monitor schools and that state governments provide to test students and evaluate teachers only matter if we permit them to restrict our performance in our schools. We want all educators to view the CCSS and state measurements of student achievements as springboards from which they launch their gymnastic gyrations into a mastery ballet of student and teacher synchronized learning.

    We hope that this book will help our readers master the intricacies of the CCSS and free them from restrictive mental models and efforts to teach to tests. We believe that our book can enable school leaders and teachers to collaborate in new ways. We believe that educators who adopt our approach to the CCSS will see themselves as the true innovators and the guiding hands that set children free to be lifelong learners.


    Bob and I wish to acknowledge the thousands of dedicated and talented educators with whom we have worked or taught over the years that get up every morning and, despite the mounting challenges they face, joyfully and professionally do everything in their power to make the lives of children better in every way. We have learned from every one of them. Their thirst for continuous learning and efforts to improve their knowledge and practice are nothing short of inspirational. They give us hope that, in spite of America's misguided educational policy makers in Washington, D.C., and state houses across our land, school leaders and their faculties will continue to focus on teaching and learning and building upon children's strengths. The people we admire the most know that test prep is not a curriculum and that failure does not motivate children. They learn from error when errors are pathways to learning.

    Our deepest thanks and gratitude to Arnis Burvikovs, Kimberly Greenberg, and Pam Schroeder of Corwin for their unfailing support, expertise, and guidance through the process of bringing this book to fruition.

    We wish to express our sincere appreciation to our colleague, Dan Domenech, Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators, for his wisdom, advice, and the insights he offers in the Foreword to this book.

    We acknowledge our reliance and the NGA and CCSSO for giving all of us who write about the common core access to the entire document.

    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin would like to thank the following individuals for taking the time to provide their editorial insight:

    Charlotte R. Bihm

    Instructional Specialist

    St. Landry Parish School Board

    Opelousas, LA

    William Richard Hall, Jr.


    R. C. Longan Elementary School

    Henrico, VA

    Martin J. Hudacs


    Solanco School District

    Quarryville, PA

    Virginia Kelsen, PhD


    Rancho Cucamonga High School

    Rancho Cucamonga, CA

    Tanna Nicely

    Assistant Principal

    Dogwood Elementary

    Knoxville, TN

    Lyne Ssebikindu

    Assistant Principal

    Crump Elementary School

    Memphis, TN

    About the Authors

    Dr. Robert J. Manley graduated from Iona College with a BA in Spanish Language Arts and minors in Philosophy and Education. He completed his MA degree in the Humanities at Hofstra University and his Professional Diploma and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Educational Administration at St. John's University. He taught Spanish language skills and served as an instructor in a New York State Model Humanities program at West Babylon High School. For 21 years, he served in a variety of administrative positions including Assistant Principal at Babylon Jr./Sr. High School, Principal in Plainedge School District, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and Superintendent of Schools in West Babylon, New York. He served as President of the Board of Directors for the Suffolk County Library System and the Suffolk County Organization to Promote Education. Currently, he is Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership in the Doctoral Program at Dowling College, New York.

    In the last six years, he has presented peer-reviewed papers at the Sixth Annual Conference on Social Issues at Oxford University, England; the World Association for Case Research and Application in Mannheim, Germany, and Lucerne, Switzerland; and the Eastern Educational Research Association in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Clearwater, Florida. In addition, he presented workshops on School Board Governance practices at the New York State School Boards Annual Convention and at the National School Boards Conference. On January 8, 2009, he presented “Systems That Work for Students in Higher Education” as Keynote Speaker at the International Symposium for Quality in Higher Education at Shri M.D., Shah Mahila College of Arts and Commerce, Mumbai, India. In January 2011, his paper titled “Indian, Mexican and USA Management Students Interpret Moral Leadership for a Global Economy” was awarded Best Paper for Management at the International Business and Economy Conference at Universidad Panamericana, Guadalajara, Mexico. He is the coauthor with Richard Hawkins of a book on school reform titled Designing School Systems for All Students: A Toolbox to Fix America's Schools.

    Dr. Richard J. Hawkins graduated from Hofstra University with his BS in Music Education. He completed his MS in Education and Professional Diploma in Education Leadership at Long Island University. Rich received his doctorate in Educational Administration at Dowling College. He began his teaching career in the William Floyd School District as an instrumental music teacher and later became District Coordinator of Music and Art. After his department was recognized as the Outstanding Music Program in the country by the Music Educators National Conference, Rich moved to district office as the Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education and Personnel. Schools under his supervision received designation as New York State (NYS) Schools of Excellence and U.S. DOE Blue Ribbon Schools. Rich served as Superintendent of the William Floyd School District for almost 12 years. He has served as President of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association (SCSSA) and held various roles with the New York State Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS). Currently, he is Director of Contract Services for the College of St. Rose, Albany, NY.

    Since retiring from William Floyd, Rich served as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Advanced Certificate and EdD programs in Educational Leadership at Dowling College. He also is an instructor in the Educational Leadership program at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. In addition, Rich taught full time at the College of St. Elizabeth as Assistant Professor in their EdD and Master's programs. In 2006, Rich formed Hawkins and Associates: Organizational Learning Consultants to help leaders and their organizations reach their goals and aspirations. Over the last nine years, he has had peer-reviewed papers presented at the World Association for Case Research and Application in Lucerne, Switzerland, and Mannheim, Germany; the Eastern Educational Research Association in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and in the Long Island Education Review. Rich has made numerous presentations to the NYS School Boards Association, NYSCOSS, and SCSSA. He has presented at Hofstra University's Social Emotional Literacy Conference and Dowling College's Annual Practical Research Symposium. He was also a Keynote Presenter at the U.S. DOE Safe School/Healthier Students Conference, Tysons Corner, VA.

    He is the coauthor with Robert Manley of a book on school reform titled Designing School Systems for All Students: A Toolbox to Fix America's Schools.

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