Core competencies: PDI shows intensive grade-level focus is key to success with CCSS

By Morgan Appel, director of the Education Department, UC San Diego Extension

The introduction and adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into schools across the United States has proven exigent for many practitioners, particularly those steeped in the lock-step routine of the assessment-heavy curricular adoptions that characterized education during the 1990s and early 2000s. As CCSS embraces a more cross-curricular, technology-driven and metacognitive framework than its predecessor, educators have been compelled to reconsider both instructional content and pedagogies in a larger context of re-infusing creativity into classroom teaching. The cultivation of what might call ‘sound habits of mind’ and a highly personalized experience for each pupil also represent premiums in this pursuit — a daunting task for those who have always looked toward the test for guidance.
ccss.jpgAs one might intuit, professional development for Common Core falls along a continuum, ranging from a few hours of general information and team building to intensive series of courses qualifying teachers as specialists in a particular content area or grade level. Falling at this end of the spectrum are courses delivered in collaboration with the Professional Development Institute (PDI), a longstanding partner with the Education Department that specializes in offering cutting-edge coursework for educators across the United States.

PDI approaches the Common Core with focus on rigorous grade-level delivery and formative and summative assessments associated with the endeavor. Units in each grade-level course attend to depth and complexity; flexible grouping and differentiation of instruction; and pacing in meticulous detail. On a broader level, teachers are guided in delivering content that attends to the unique cognitive and affective needs of every student, encouraging creativity and commitment. Beyond acquiring core competencies in these areas, teachers gain comprehensive insight into the new standards and their fit in the larger schema of education. Courses carry academic credit from UC San Diego Extension, as well as opportunities to earn an award of completion designating the teacher as a specialist in a particular grade level area of the Common Core.

As June Kirske, a teacher enrolled in the PDI program, explains: "The content … was just what I needed! With the Common Core in full implementation this coming school year, I needed a class that laid the new standards out as well as deepened my understanding of the domains." Rachel Gamble, another educator in the program echoes this sentiment: "Excellent Content and resources. I absolutely love all of the teaching ideas for each section and strand of the Common Core Standards. The book lists for all of the lesson plans were wonderful."

Teachers interested in pursuing professional development in CCSS may find more information on the PDI webpage: Discounts may be available.

For more information about the Extension/PDI partnership around the Common Core State Standards and other educational initiatives, please contact Morgan Appel, director of Education at

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