Common Core Standards Require Uncommon Communication Effort

All but five states have adopted the Common Core Standards setting new curriculum and eventual accountability standards for our schools. For the most part, I say that your principals, teaching staff, and parents know little or nothing about the wave of reform coming to them in the next year or so.

In several meetings I’ve had with other educational leaders, they agree that most local educators — the people who will be implementing the standards — are unaware of the changes to come. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this launch of the Common Core Standards in your schools should be halted now unless a communication plan for implementing it is completed and ready to help the implementation process.

Tons of organization research tells us that communication is the critical component of change in any organization. Those who plan with communication in mind are normally successful. Those who don’t, are slapped with ineffective and incompetent labels and then are often soon on the way out the door, leaving a mess behind which includes finger-pointing among state officials, superintendents, Board members, and local curriculum leaders. The media picks up the controversy and our critics use it as another reason to bash education as we once again prove that we are failing at another school reform priority. One of newer critics — state legislators — will also now join the bashing banter. 

Of course at the expense of sounding like a snake oil salesman with an elixir to stop the pain and bring comfort to the Common Core process, you really do need to call “time out” and develop a communication strategy and plan to implement it.

Participants at all levels must know why the change is called for, what the changes are, how they will be implemented, when will they be implemented, and what results are expected. Parents want to know how things will be different for their kids. Right now, some parents are asking teachers, but the teachers do not have answers. Teachers are asking their principals and most principals tell us that they, too, have received little or no guidance on what’s ahead for them in Common Core implementation.

NSPRA has been preaching for years that leading school districts always develop a communication strategy for major changes in their schools. Top districts understand that even smaller changes can be controversial if the communication ball is fumbled along the way.

The Common Core Standards represent major changes that touch just about everyone in your schools. Now is the time to do your research to discover what’s real in your state. You must plan accordingly. You work too hard protecting the reputation of your staff and schools. Don’t fumble this opportunity; start the process now!  

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

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