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This is one of my favorite photos of our four children for obvious reasons.  First, it shows how absolutely adorable they were at that age.  Second, it captures a specific moment in time so we will always remember it.  Third, it proves that they can all get along, at least long enough to snap a photograph.   Beyond those basic visual elements, they picture carries a deeper message for me as it encapsulates some beliefs and values about teaching and learning that are crucial to the successful implementation of the common core standards and assessments.

Focus on Staying Connected-Just like the four children are connected by holding hands, it is important for leaders,  teachers,  parents, and students to stay connected during the journey of implementing the common core.  The famous saying "It takes a village to raise a child" is true.  It is everyone's responsibility to help every child become college and career ready by focusing on academic content, employability skills, and career interests.  Partnerships are essential and effective because on-going communication is needed among the community, schools, and homes to maximize student achievement.

Focus on Individual Students-In the picture, you can tell that each child is different.  They all learn differently and have their own interests and talents.  In order to successfully implement the common core standards, we must keep in mind the individual child.  It isn't about "covering" or "checking off" the standards; it is about allowing every child to practice and learn the standards through relevant learning opportunities.  Relevance matters just as much as the rigor.

Focus on Developing Healthy Relationships-The picture shows that all four children trust and care for one another.  This is also needed in our communities, schools, and classrooms.  PEOPLE before PROGRAMS.  Developing healthy relationships is essential.  Students will rise to the high expectations we set if they know the person (parent, teacher, administrator, or community member) working with them truly cares.  Teachers will rise to the high expectations of making difficult instructional shifts if they know they have the support and trust of their administrator.  Schools will rise to the high expectations of the public if they know they have the trust and support of their community.  No curriculum program or resource that has ever been developed will work if people aren't the priority!

Focus on the End Goal-The context of this picture isn't explicit, but the older kids have a goal.  They were focused on getting the younger ones to a specific destination, a friend's house.  With the implementation of new standards and assessments, we can easily become distracted by focusing on the politics or other issues that distract us from the end goal or the destination.  The end goal is that all students are prepared for their life after high school and are well on their way to becoming a productive citizen.  We want every student to either work for themselves, become employed by someone else, or serve others in the military or in the home.

I'd like to end with the following quote  from a local superintendent who is passionate about focusing on the kids during our transition of new standards and assessments,  "It is about the work, the effort, the focus, the will, to have a district or state really care about the future of kids, instead of adults and their politics or other issues that prevent us from doing what is right."

So as you and your district implement the common core standards and assessments, stay connectedfocus on individual studentsdevelop healthy relationships, and focus on the end goal.  Support a system that focuses on individual students and utilizes standards and assessments to guide and support the learning journey for each student, not one that only focuses on implementing a checklist of standards for an assessment.  If you do that, then everyone should get the picture!

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