Education Week - March 5, 2014 - Leaders to Learn From - S22
with colleagues Torrey Palmer, the district's K-6 language
arts coordinator, and Cathy Schmidt, an implementation
specialist in the district. Their aim was to
provide teachers with materials, strategies, and resources
that are "vetted, scalable, and free," said Mr.
Grossman. The teachers, in return, test these strategies
in their classrooms and provide feedback.
"I think this project affords teachers the chance
to really experience an instructional shift," said Ms.
Palmer. "It's so connected to student learning, very
data driven, and very authentic."
"So many times you go to training where they talk
at you. At the [Core Task] trainings, [Mr. Grossman,
Ms. Palmer, and Mr. Schmidt] talked at us for a little
while, and then we got to go try a new approach
and come back and tell them what we thought," Ms.
Westmont said. "It very much facilitated discussion
Ms. Westmont, an instructional coach at the time,
became involved in the project when it launched in
That also meant a heightened level of accountabil-
ity, according to Ms. Westmont, since teachers were
asked to return from testing the implementation
strategies ready to discuss and assess their effectiveness
in the classroom.
"The effort here in our district feels different for a
lot of people," Mr. Grossman said. "It's teachers building
stuff from the bottom up."
For example, rather than sending a few individu-
als to common-core conferences, the Core Task team
would show teachers tapes of those conferences.
"This isn't me filtering and telling [teachers] what
is most important. We got out of the way," said Mr.
Grossman. "We just allowed people to hear the message."
Once the teachers saw and discussed their re-
sources, they tested the techniques in the classrooms.
At the end of each meeting, teachers who had tested
the new teaching techniques were asked to reflect on
their experience and outcomes. The project then aggregates
all that information to refine its strategy.
"[Mr. Grossman] definitely led the charge in terms
of pointing us in the right direction with the instructional
shift," said Ms. Palmer. "He found some fantastic
content and primary-source material."
One of the individuals Mr. Grossman contacted in
gathering authentic materials for teachers was David
Liben, a senior content specialist with the literacy
and language arts team at Student Achievement
Partners, and his wife, Meredith Liben, the director
of that team.
"Aaron has been instrumental in getting this going
and getting questions answered," said Ms. Westmont,
the special education teacher. "We joke that he
emailed [David Liben] so many times that Liben had
no choice but to email him back. He finds answers."
Since their first discussion about common-core implementation,
Mr. Grossman and the Libens have collaborated
on a variety of projects, including creating
video resources and a course for iTunes University
intended to help teachers understand the commoncore
shifts in English/language arts and literacy and
how this might change classroom practices.
David and Meredith Liben have visited the district
multiple times to work with Mr. Grossman and his
The work by Mr. Grossman, Ms. Palmer, and Ms.
Schmidt on the Core Task Project also led to their
fellowships with Student Achievement Partners,
in which they help to disseminate information and
tools for implementing the common core to educators
across the country.
"I was really impressed with how they were ap-
proaching the transition and how aggressively they
were making changes and working collaboratively
with teachers," said David Liben. "Aaron was able to
bring the standards into Washoe, and he's done so in
a hands-on way with teachers that I think is unique."
What's more, Washoe's students are benefiting from
Mr. Grossman's and the Core Task Project's efforts.
"I can confidently say that by engaging in this
work, we are moving our students closer to college
and career readiness," Ms. Palmer said. n
S22 | LEADERS TO LEARN FROM > leaders.edweek.org
EDUCATION WEEK * March 5, 2014
"If you are looking to
reform a school district,
it can be sped up,
and you can get more
traction, if you engage
parents in the work.
We can't leave parents
on the sidelines."
Education Week - March 5, 2014 - Leaders to Learn From
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