CPS Begins Move to Common Core State Standards 

CPS jumpstarting process by recruiting “Early Adopter” Common Core Schools this school year

August 31, 2011

Chicago Public Schools this year will begin the push towards transforming curriculum and instruction throughout the system to prepare students for 21st century college and career expectations by establishing curriculum and assessment based on Common Core State Standards (CCSS).


As a first step, the District has begun the process of recruiting “Early Adopter” schools that will implement CCSS during this school year. Even though full implementation is not required until the 2013-14 school year, CPS officials said the District intends to have a CCSS-aligned curriculum in place in all of its schools a year early.


CCSS complements the District’s intent to lengthen the school day by providing more opportunity for time on task in key areas like mathematics and literacy, said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. The move to accelerate implementation of CCSS is meant to provide teachers and students with more tools to drive classroom achievement, he said.


“Adopting the Common Core State Standards will help our children get back on track towards being competitive with their peers across the country,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “We’re excited about fully implementing these standards throughout the district during the 2012/2013 school year - one year ahead of schedule - while bringing the program online this year with our Early Adopter schools. This represents a significant step forward for our system and as we all work together to support our teachers and principals in boosting the academic success of our students.”


Brizard has established as a key priority the longer school day, one that will include instruction that incorporates the new Common Core State Standards. Along with more time on task in reading, writing, math, science and social studies, students will also benefit from enrichment opportunities, like art and music, which studies show help boost student achievement. According to the Council of Great City Schools, CPS trails Illinois and other large urban districts in preparing students to meet Common Core benchmarks; in college readiness for reading, for example, Chicago sits at 19 percent, compared to 46 percent for Illinois.


The District intends to increase the length of the school day by 90 minutes in all schools for the 2012-13 school year. CPS has the shortest school day in the nation, short-changing both students and teachers, Brizard said.


CCSS describes what students should know and be able to do at every grade level in mathematics and literacy in order to be prepared for college and career and to succeed in a global society. CCSS have been adopted by nearly every state across the nation, and set a high bar for proficiency in literacy and mathematics, and are organized to provide deeper, clearer and more consistent expectations of students.


CPS has set as key priorities ensuring that every child has access to a world-class education and that the District’s graduate high schools college and career ready.


CCSS is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and educational experts. The standards are informed by the highest and most effective teaching and learning models and will provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students regardless of where they live.


The CCSS initiative will proceed as the District undertakes its reorganization of the field offices (formerly called Area Offices) that support local schools. The new structure consists of 14 elementary and five high school Network offices that are then clustered into larger geographic “Collaboratives.” The new Networks are community-based and each Collaborative includes a geographic set of PreK-12 schools.


The structure was designed to improve service to communities, collaboration among schools and to ensure better articulation of the instructional program throughout all grades.


Of the 10 major cities in the nation, Chicago ranks last in the amount of time students spend in the classroom. Today, CPS students receive 15 percent less instructional time than the national average.

The District will launch the CCSS via a multi-pronged approach:

  • Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) sessions. Each quarter, all Networks will bring together the administration and lead teachers in every school for full-day professional development sessions. These sessions will focus on two outcomes and will be supported by Central Office and Network professional development teams:
    • A shared understanding of CCSS and how to engage teachers in short- and long-term planning using the standards.
    • The development and monitoring of clear Theory of Action and Action Plans aimed at student mastery of the standards.

These sessions will also provide opportunities for elementary and high school teams to collaborate, a critical bridge that the new structure will build.

  • Early Adopter Schools. A sub-group of schools will be identified early on and will help build and fine-tune the necessary professional development, assessments and instructional materials to which all schools will eventually have access. Schools are currently in the process of applying, with applications due on September 6th. The district expects a minimum of 30 schools to initially participate.
  • Training for Network Teams. Once a month, the new Network teams will participate in professional development focused on building their coaching capacity to work with principals and teacher teams on implementing the new CCSS.
  • Saturday training/work sessions. Separate, optional Saturday sessions will be offered to teachers to better facilitate direct communication around CCSS and allow time for teachers to collaborate with their peers.
  • CCSS Benchmark Assessments. The District will launch a quarterly CCSS-aligned benchmark assessment in literacy and math for students in grades 2-8 so that educators and parents can understand the level at which students are expected to perform and how they are doing in reaching that level of performance. High schools will use a system of college readiness interim assessments aligned to the ACT test.
  • Advisory Structure.  Each stage of implementation of the CCSS will be informed by the feedback provided by teachers, principals and curriculum and research partners, both local and national.

Early Adopters must have a baseline understanding of the CCSS and what differentiates them from other state standards.  Early Adopters will receive comprehensive support in building units of study, assessments and research projects/performance tasks aligned to the Common Core Standards.  This support will be provided through quarterly release days for grade levels and course-alike teams to collaborate with teachers from other Early Adopter schools.


Support will also be provided through the training, engagement and collaboration of a Teacher Leader from each Early Adopter school.  Grade level and course-alike teams will also be engaged during common planning time on their progress in implementing CCSS-aligned instruction and evaluating student mastery of standards.  Teams from these schools will also have opportunities to share their best practices with other schools from across their Networks and across the city through ILT sessions.


Early Adopter schools must commit to the following:


ILT Professional Development. Each ILT will attend quarterly full-day training on the CCSS and the development of a Theory of Action and Action Plan designed to help teachers teach the standards effectively.  These sessions will allow Early Adopter schools an opportunity to collaborate with all schools within their Network.

  • Grade level or course-alike release days. Representatives from each grade-level or course-alike teams will attend quarterly full-day planning sessions with other teachers from the same grade level across Early Adopter schools.  These sessions will be focused on the development of performance tasks, analysis of student work and identification of student exemplars for each grade level.  Participants will also lead the development of planning tools and resources that will eventually be made available to all teachers.  These days will be spaced so that no more than one team attends each day, and substitute coverage will be provided. 
  • Collaborative planning meetings. Each grade-level or course-alike team must meet weekly to analyze formative data and plan for instruction based on the CCSS.  These planning meetings will be co-facilitated by members of the school’s ILT. Schools will also receive ongoing support from the Central CCSS team as well as Network Teams.
  • Teacher Leader Professional Learning Community. Each participating school will assign a teacher leader in reading and/or math who will participate in a monthly Professional Learning Community focused on the development of the district’s common curriculum and assessment system, which will be launched in the 2012-13 school year. 


Recruitment of Early Adopter schools has been ongoing. Schools that are considering application as Early Adopters are completing surveys that ask them to reflect on their existing level of standards-based curriculum design and instructional practice and submit other materials for review.



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