Some school districts want more help with mathematics materials to meet Common Core State Standards, they favor modular delivery of common-core content, and they prefer a “process vs. product” approach as they make purchasing decisions to meet the standards.
Those were among the insights offered by two speakers at EDVentures 2013, a gathering of the Education Industry Association here last week, where some of the discussion revolved around how companies could address the common core.
“I had a state tell me the other day they are not able to endorse any … math materials,” said Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, who did not elaborate as to which state that was. “I do think…there will be growth around the mathematics piece of this.” At the same time, he said states are reporting that they can locate “good ELA (English/language arts) materials.” And, he identified “modular” as the preferred content-delivery system.
From the perspective of a school leader, Michael Haggen, the deputy superintendent for innovation and reform at the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Baton Rouge, La., said student learning supports should be process-driven.
“If you come in and say, ‘Here’s the product that will change your district,’ we’re not listening anymore,” he said. The approach that gets school leaders’ attention today is, “We’ll support you with this process, and here’s the tool you need,” he explained.
For instance, he noted that support for assessments and the technology to administer them is critical. Districts with limited financial resources “don’t have one-to-one
technology,” Haggen said. “We can’t afford it.”
While districts are looking for where they can find the funds to purchase the needed technology, they also need solutions that are sustainable, and that allow students to take home the technology. He asked the business leaders in attendance to answer this question for schools: “How can we help you build that—with sustainability?”
Haggen also discussed the blended learning model, saying that districts are moving to having “up to 60 students” in one classroom taught by a teacher, a special education teacher, and an aide for the different levels of instruction occurring at the same time. “How do you support that?”
Training is another area that districts need help with, but “training that is embedded in good teaching, and not driven by preset products,” Haggen said. “The focus in professional development is on training that builds the capacity of staff at all levels—central office and school-based.”
A new area requiring attention is in assisting districts prepare prekindergartners with school-readiness skills, “so we’re looking for support in that,” he said.
For companies interested in getting more involved with statewide common-core efforts, Minnich directed them to join the council’s business partner program, which meets three times a year. These meetings are primarily “about states giving their blessings for superintendents [in their state] to buy” what business partners sell, and not intended as occasions for direct sales to districts, Minnich explained.