Implementation Challenges

To achieve their vision for implementation, school districts are looking for support in a number of areas, especially around collaboration, formative assessment, professional development, and instructional materials.

Center Quote Icon(1)In addition to time, folks underestimated… [the need for] building a different mindset within the climate of a school. Cultural readiness both at district and site level was lacking in terms of understanding what a big shift we were asking [teachers] to make, especially as we ask them to leave the comfort of scripted curriculum. So we needed to afford them with more time, resources, and more support in terms of building the correct culture for educators to be the professionals that they are.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)I think that there’s a glut of resources. It would really be helpful if someone we trust could say, ‘This is a good one,’ so we don’t have to wade through vendors who are constantly peddling their wares. I feel like we’re wading through [a] territory of stuff out there… it would be nice if we had an advisor.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)Teachers are spending a lot of time creating their own formative assessment to make it look like the [Smarter Balanced Assessment System].

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)We found [our external provider] is not aligned with Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) summative assessments.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)We are struggling right now with having consistent formative assessments, or district-wide formative assessments. The ones we did create do not look like California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) assessments.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)There needs to be a shift in the culture. We’re a veteran district here, so we have teachers not ready to give up what they’ve been doing that they’ve found effective over time. Some of our people are embracing it [Common Core] and running with it. We have a few, like in any other place, that are lagging behind. Helping them see the benefits for the students [is a challenge].

–  District Leader

Additional areas of support necessary for implementation

# of Districts

Districts are facing multiple challenges implementing with fidelity.

Center Quote Icon(1)Before we can engage in conversation on what we want to do in terms of measuring and monitoring growth, we really need to know what the interims will tell us and how accessible they are. Are they valuable as a measure for summative data?

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)The level of rigor, expectation, and types of questions on summative assessment are so different and challengingThere are not any formative assessments to understand whether it’s been mastered or not.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)[The Smarter Balanced Assessment System] lacks resources for driving instruction, whereas the California Standards Tests (CST) gave the number of questions per clusternot enough transparency.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)From our understanding, the data that we get back won’t be helpful… [We] can’t do item analysis. The concern isn’t with the content but with the feedback.

–  District Leader

Major Implementation Challenges

Implementation Challenges by Locale

What district leaders are saying about their internal capabilities to meet current needs:

Center Quote Icon(1)We hired one resource teacher per site. Our resource teachers are key in terms of [supporting] instructional leadership. They have an additional layer of training [and] then go back and support site leaders. They are almost like a safety net for site leaders. For many site leaders, instructional leadership and being experts in instructional strategies are not what they’re good at… resource teachers are a layer [who] understand and can support teachers & schools.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)We have teachers on special assignment (TOSAs) working out of our district officethey’re centrally funded and 100% released. They’ve been assigned to schools to work with new teachers, develop training with department chairs, and meet weekly with instructional leaders… they’ve been essential for implementation.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)There are not enough coaches to reach all schools consistently so there’s not enough follow-up.

–  District Leader

Example Professional Development Deployment Process

District leaders rank time and money as the greatest constraints that limit additional professional learning, with every district noting limited time for learning and collaboration as an implementation barrier.

Center Quote Icon(1)We really don’t have embedded collaboration time. If this is going to fail, it will be because we don’t have consistent time for teachers to collaborate together… that’s the big issue and this is a hard thing for teachers. The 2nd and 3rd years [of implementation] are always the hardest. They’ve been great. They go along with it, but it’s kind of like they’re waiting for this to pass. They still go to their default way of teaching. They’re not feeling as efficacious, so there’s a little bit of blaming poverty or parents…

–  District Leader

Constraints on Additional Professional Learning, Ranked

Constraints by Locale: City, Ranked

Constraints by Locale: Town, Ranked

Constraints by Locale: Suburb, Ranked

Constraints by Locale: Rural, Ranked

School leaders play a vital role in standards implementation, but in most districts, professional learning for school leadership has lagged as districts focused on teachers.

Center Quote Icon(1)We’re now incorporating training with principals to make up for it. Before we present to teachers, we bring it to the principals. Teachers are in favor of that…we are strengthening administrator support so they can provide support [to their teachers].

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)We made a huge omission in skipping principals from the instructional standpoint three years ago, and did lose a couple of years of knowledge. We’re providing sessions on leadership training, instructional rounds… walkthroughs.

–  District Leader

Center Quote Icon(1)We learned early on that it was really important [to include school site leaders] but, no, we didn’t always do it that way. It’s important for us to distinguish their role and how that’s different from the teacher. We differentiated and decided it was easier to focus on content with the lens of an instructional leader who is responsible for implementation and monitoring versus learning how to unpack and apply as teacher.

–  District Leader

How districts are building capacity for school leaders

  • Principal cohort meetings
  • Principal induction and coaching
  • Benchmarking against other districts
  • Support for professional learning communities
  • Executive coaching

Professional Learning Types and Content

  • Data review
  • Decision-making based on site data
  • Norming of site walk-throughs/learning walks
  • Informal meetings
  • Change management

How districts are building capacity for school leaders

  • Principal cohort meetings
  • Principal induction and coaching
  • Benchmarking against other districts
  • Support for professional learning communities
  • Executive coaching

Professional Learning Types and Content

  • Data review
  • Decision-making based on site data
  • Norming of site walk-throughs/learning walks
  • Informal meetings
  • Change management