Forty-five states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS, developed by a state-led initiative, are intended to align instructional expectations across the country so that all students receive a rigorous and relevant education that will prepare them to be successful in college and careers (

Transitioning to the CCSS is presenting states with the daunting challenge of implementing the new standards in a context of high levels of public interest, high-profile funding opportunities (like Race to the Top) and new partnership opportunities with other states (like the new multi-state testing consortia).

Successfully transitioning to the CCSS will require districts and states to do work they have never done and to develop partnerships with each other that haven’t existed in the past. Historically, state education departments and local districts have had two types of relationships: (1) the state monitors for compliance and enforces state and federal laws and regulations, and (2) the state provides educational resources and/or technical assistance to local districts. These traditional modes of interaction are not sufficient to support the successful local implementation (with permeation down to the classroom level) of the ambitious reform agendas being taken on across the country.

In this context, how can state leadership ensure that the implementation of CCSS in their local districts is successful?

States must not only create new content and systems associated with transitioning to the CCSS as well as other reform efforts and monitor participation by local districts, but must actively provide a facilitated opportunity for district leadership teams to work together to strategize around significant implementation challenges, share best practices and develop cross-district relationships. They must also develop an in-depth understanding of state-wide implementation challenges and strengths, as well as pockets of weakness across the state, in order to tailor technical assistance to actual district needs.

We have worked with Rhode Island to develop a new process called Collaborative Learning for Outcomes (CLOs) that is helping the state do exactly this—redefine the state-district relationship, improve communication around implementation challenges and facilitate communities of practice for district leadership teams around reform implementation (including transition to the CCSS). We have found that the CLO process has enabled this work to move ahead in Rhode Island in a way we have not seen in any other state.

These are not easy changes, but they are necessary in order for the CCSS and other challenging reforms to be implemented successfully at scale.(EB)