Common Core creator: Ask teachers what works

Aug. 14, 2014 @ 04:09 PM

As North Carolina begins to review and possibly revise its Common Core standards, Michael Cohen, president of Achieve Inc., a Washington, D.C., education reform nonprofit, advised state education and business leaders Thursday to listen to what teachers have to say about what works best.
Cohen, whose nonpartisan organization helped develop Common Core State Standards, made his remarks during the N.C. Conference on Education held at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel where hundreds of educators and business leaders gathered to discuss the future of education in North Carolina, higher standards, apprenticeship success stories and other educational-related issues.
“First of all, listen to the teachers who have been teaching with standards you’ve adopted and ask them what’s working and what’s not,” Cohen said. “They’re the one’s who are going to be able to give you the best information.”
Cohen also said students who have already graduated high school should also be asked to share what works.
“Ask them if they’ve got the skills they need or don’t and what’s missing from that,” Cohen said.
He said post-secondary educators should also be a good source of information for those called on to review state standards.
“Pay particular attention to those who are teaching in the technical training programs in two-year institutions, not just the four-year colleges, but the technical training programs and find out what they need and the different kind of skills they need depending on the kinds of career or occupational area,” Cohen said.
Addressing business leaders attending the conference presented by Biogen Idec, Cohen said they should listen to “themselves,” the ones who will be doing the hiring.
“What is it that you need,” Cohen said, adding that parents are a good source as well.
“If you listen to those voices and get as much input from them as you can, and have a process for putting that together, you are likely to come up with standards that are rigorous and focused and will leave students well-prepared for secondary education whether they look like the Common Core or not,” Cohen.
Earlier this summer, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill passed by the General Assembly mandating a review of the Common Core Standards after a grassroots group of parents lobbied state lawmakers to repeal the standards. 
The standards will remain in place through this school year, but a new state commission will review the standards and choose the best one, with Common Core being a possibility.
McCrory attended the conference to discuss his education plan and his vision for talent supply in North Carolina.
Cohen is a recognized leader in education policy and standards- based reform became president of Achieve in 2003, an organization which former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt help to create as a founding board member.
He said North Carolina is fortunate have governors such as Hunt and McCrory who are committed to education.
“There must be something in the water here in North Carolina that carries that theme through at the state House and in the governor’s mansion.” Cohen said. “I think that’s an impressive kind of leadership.” 
Under Cohen’s leadership, Achieve, a bipartisan organization, has launched the American Diploma Project Network, formed the Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC) as well as helped to develop the Common Core State Standards.