Kappan: Teachers collaborate across state lines to design high-quality units

kappan teachers collaborate across state lines to design high quality units header

By Ash Vasudeva and Amy Slamp

Common Core and Literacy Design Collaborative tools provide the foundation for strengthening teaching and learning.

With states and districts implementing new academic standards based on the Common Core State Standards, teachers have more opportunities than ever to collaborate around the shared goals of strengthening curriculum design, classroom practices, and student learning.

Building from this premise, the Colorado Education Initiative and The Fund for Transforming Education in Kentucky, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched the three-year Common Assignment Study (CAS) in 2013. This project involves 45 English language arts (ELA), history, and science teachers from Colorado and Kentucky who collaborate in person and virtually to design and teach two common assignments — instructional units that promote college-ready academic standards and contain common performance tasks for students — each year.

The project aims to answer these questions:

  • How do teachers working in different states and districts successfully design, revise, and implement common units that meet their respective state and district standards?
  • Can these codesigned units serve as evidence of academic growth and capture knowledge and skills not demonstrated on a typical test?
  • How does student performance on the CAS units compare within and across schools, districts, and states?
  • How can different patterns of performance among students lead to conversations among teachers and administrators about instructional strategies and resources?
  • Can the CAS units potentially be used in conjunction with state educator effectiveness systems?
In the first two years of the project, the CAS units have been taught to more than 9,600 students in 12 districts, and the study has yielded valuable lessons, research findings, and insights from teachers. As other states and districts look to design units that meet new standards, the CAS project can help inform efforts to improve teaching and learning across the country.

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