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Summary Report: Supporting Implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics


In 2010, the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers published the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and to date, 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted the document. These content and practice standards, which specify what students are expected to understand and be able to do in K-12 mathematics, represent a significant departure from what mathematics is currently taught in most classrooms and how it is taught. Developing teachers' capacity to enact these new standards in ways that support the intended student learning outcomes will require considerable changes in mathematics instruction in our nation's classrooms. Such changes are likely to occur only through sustained and focused professional development opportunities for those who teach mathematics.

The recommendations that follow are intended to support large-scale, system-level implementation of professional development initiatives aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). They emerged from the work done under the auspices of a NSF-funded project, which provided the opportunity for experts from diverse fields to collaboratively address the challenge of providing high-quality mathematics professional development at scale to support the implementation of the CCSSM. Over the course of the project, researchers and expert practitioners worked to integrate various perspectives on this challenge into a set of design recommendations for creating, sustaining, and assessing professional development systems for practicing mathematics teachers. Generated from the coordination of research-based knowledge in different but related fields, these recommendations build on state-of-the-art research findings from mathematics education, professional development, organizational theory, and policy.

The recommendations take into account the important role teachers will play in making the standards a reality. A substantive body of research points to teachers as the most important factor in promoting mathematics learning, and the education of teachers has been deemed an essential aspect in promoting educational improvement. Thus, the recommendations proposed here make salient that attending to the professional development of practicing mathematics teachers in light of the CCSSM is a requirement for the successful implementation of the new standards.

It is important to note that these recommendations are intended to build on, rather than replicate, the features of effective professional development identified in prior research (e.g., Desimone, 2009; Elmore, 2002; Guskey & Yoon, 2009; Guskey, 2000). In particular, a recent report from the National Staff Development Council (Darling-Hammond et al., 2009) entitled, "Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad" identified four basic, research-based principles for designing professional development that we understand as common professional and research knowledge that serves as the foundation on which the current recommendations are built: 1) professional development should be intensive, ongoing, and connected to practice; 2) professional development should focus on student learning and address the teaching of specific content; 3) professional development should align with school improvement priorities and goals; and 4) professional development should build strong working relationships among teachers. We hope that the recommendations that follow, in conjunction with these four basic principles, can help districts and states in creating, sustaining, and assessing professional development systems for practicing mathematics teachers that support their implementation of the CCSSM, and ultimately, the learning of all K-12 students.

NOTE: The abbreviation CCSSM-PD is used through the recommendations in order to avoid consistently reminding the reader that the recommendation is specifically about professional development that supports enactment of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.