Concordia Portland's Dana Barbarick on the Importance of Common Core State Standards
Dana Barbarick has a passion for teaching and learning. Her work spans from elementary learners to adults and from traditional face-to-face courses to fully online courses. She works with Concordia University-Portland’s online faculty as the director of faculty development and also plays a direct role as a member of Concordia Portland’s online faculty for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Instructional Leader MEd program.
Recently, Barbarick took time out of her busy schedule to talk about the CCSS Instructional Leader master’s degree and the significance of such a curriculum.
Why and how have the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) sent shockwaves through the education community?
The CCSS came about as a reaction to the need for the U.S. to raise educational standards in order to prepare students to compete in a global economy. Previous standards varied from state to state and were, in some cases, not as rigorous as needed for preparing students to succeed in the workplace. The initiative to implement common standards across states was led by the nation’s governors and education commissioners. They sought input from key stakeholders as the standards were designed. The rigor of the standards and the ensuing need for redesign of curriculum has created a shock in the educational community.
Preparation for such a shift requires time and money, both of which are limited in this effort. The states that have adopted the CCSS must prepare students for new measures of accountability with limited funds dedicated to the shift. Districts, schools, and teachers are working to get up to speed on new standards, and in some cases, this means that teachers must learn to teach content that is new to the grade level. The good news is that many teachers are excited about the change and are working to prepare themselves to be leaders in the implementation of standards despite the financial and time challenges.
The Curriculum & Instruction: Common Core State Standards Instructional Leader MEd online degree program offered by Concordia University-Portland is among the first–if not the first–of its kind. What is the university’s vision for this program?
Concordia University-Portland’s mission is to prepare leaders for the transformation of society. What better way to prepare leaders than to educate them in the implementation of standards that will raise the educational bar for all U.S. students? Concordia Portland graduates already impact students all over the U.S. through excellence in teaching and teacher leadership. This program will allow these teachers to be leaders for other teachers as the shift is made to higher standards and excellence in implementation of teaching practices. Teachers are better enabled to provide content and skills “relevant to the real world reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers” (Common Core State Standards, 2012).
What was your role in developing the curriculum for this master’s program?
Concordia Portland seeks to be a leader in the preparation of leaders for the implementation of CCSS. Concordia Portland graduates have been, and continue to be, leaders in educational change for the betterment of society. As an appointed member of the Oregon Department of Education’s Stewardship Team for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, I have had the privilege to work with educators as they lead the charge for change in Oregon. The enthusiasm and work at the state level encouraged me to serve in a support role for this new program at Concordia University-Portland. We want our teachers to graduate with skills that put them on the cutting edge. As far as we know, this program is the first of its kind, and we know that it will put our graduates in a position to be active agents for change.
What can educators pursuing the online degree expect during the program?
Educators enrolled in this concentration will start with courses that offer a strong base in teaching theory and subsequently move into a series of four dynamic courses focused on leadership in the implementation of CCSS. These courses will offer students a look at the evolution and design of the CCSS; a detailed look at the standards; an examination of the shifts that have to occur to move from previous standards to the new standards; transformative teaching practices for implementation of the CCSS; and strategies for leading the charge for change. Candidates will be leaders in positive change.
What do the Common Core State Standards say about the condition of U.S. education? Any final thoughts?
The CCSS represent a significant turning point for education. Until this movement, the U.S. had states operating based on individual standards. Students could move state to state and find very different curriculum in one region than in another. Consistent and high standards for all K-12 students in the U.S. offer opportunity for collaborative projects among states and increased student preparation for success in a global economy.