Attending NTC’s National Symposium on Teacher Induction is a chance to learn more about all the great work on induction and mentoring taking place around the country.  This year, it was particularly exciting to learn about the intersection between mentoring and induction and other current issues such as Social and Emotional Learning, Blended Learning, and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  I chose to participate in the CCSS track for two reasons.  One, properly implementing the CCSS requires instruction strategies and techniques that are not necessarily taught in teacher prep programs, beginning teachers will need guidance and support in helping students learn and achieve these standards.  Two, because they are in the process of honing their instructional practices, beginning teachers are uniquely open to learning the strategies and techniques to help students achieve the expectations set forth by the CCSS.

The keynote speaker for CCSS was Sandra Alberti, Ed.D., who serves as Director of the Field Impact Team at Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit organization founded by three of the contributing authors of the standards. Alberti provided an overview of the instructional shifts in the math and ELA/Literacy CCSS.  Most importantly, she provided examples of what the shifts are and what they are not. For example, a commonly used non text-dependent question would present students with the following probe: In “Casey at the Bat,” Casey strikes out.  Describe a time when you failed at something. Students could respond to this probe without ever reading the book, she explained.  A text dependent question, as required by the ELA/Literacy CCSS would ask students a question such as: What makes Casey’s experience at bat humorous? And ask students to support their argument with evidence from the book. In mathematics, focus means that the CCSS were designed to cover fewer topics per grade so as to allow time for mastery and moving on to more complex mathematical concepts in the subsequent grades without repeating the same surface instruction grade after grade. Instruction based on the CCSS focuses where the standards focus.

CCSS Instructional Shifts



·  Build knowledge through content-rich nonfiction

·  reading, writing, and speaking grounded in literary and informational text

·  Regular practice with complex text and its academic language

Focus - Focus strongly where the standards focus

Coherence - Think across grades, and link to major topics.

Rigor – In major topic, pursue conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application


Am I Doing the Core?

In addition to the keynote, Alberti also facilitated an extended learning session – a three hour session where she shared the CCSS Instructional Practice Guides developed by Student Achievement Partners and available free of charge on the organization’s website.

During the session, Alberti introduced participants to the guides and explored the use of the guides to support teacher development and implementation of the CCSS.  The guides were designed to guide assessment of effective integration of the shifts in the standards into instructional practice.  They are intended to support teachers in developing their practice, and to help coaches or other instructional leaders in supporting them to do so.  There were mentors and mentor trainers in the audience and several indicated that these guides are a practical tool for observations and for providing feedback to help beginning teachers effectively deliver instruction that will help students achieve the CCSS.  Alberti emphasized that these guides were developed for the purpose of helping teachers develop not for teacher evaluation.

On the Student Achievement Partners’ website you may also find tools that districts and schools may use to evaluate instructional and assessment materials for alignment to the CCSS. You may also find ready to use professional development modules along with power point presentation, videos, facilitator’s instructions and hand-on activities.

Investing In Teacher Growth: Mentoring for Content Literacy in the Common Core

The use of the CCSS Instructional Practice Guides was brought to life in a session led by Emily Davis, Ph.D., Abigail Soriano (mentor), and Kaitlin Driscoll (new teacher), who illustrated the use of the guides in Silicon Valley New Teacher Project. The project implemented a three-year plan to develop the mentor’s CCSS awareness, knowledge, and mentoring skills.  On the third year, mentors learned to use the CCSS Instructional Practice Guides to observe and provide feedback to beginning teachers.  Beginning teachers are in particular need of support to properly implement the CCSS as, in addition to the many challenges of being a first year teacher, many are now faced with the challenge of developing and aligning lesson plans, (typically a difficult task for all beginning teacher), to a whole new set of standards that they may have never seen before. Driscoll explained that in her credentialing program she was trained to develop lesson plans based on the old California standards, yet as she prepared to begin her first year of teaching she was informed that the school would initiate the “exciting” shift to the CCSS.  Being in an induction program with the help and support of her mentor, helped her make a smoother transition to the CCSS. 

The CCSS raise the bar not only for students but also for the teachers responsible for helping them achieve the standards.  This presents a need and an opportunity for quality induction to provide beginning teachers the guidance and support to master their craft and help all students to graduate high school ready for college and career level work.


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