Realizing the Deep Vision of the new Common Core State Standards by Peter M. Senge

Realizing the Deep Vision of the new Common Core State Standards by Peter M. Senge

American Schools are routinely criticized today as falling behind those of key international competitors like China. But a deeper problem confronts educators and societies: we have no shared vision of what education should be for the world we now live in.


This past year, Claudia Madrazo and I of the Academy worked with four other accomplished innovators in education – Tracy Benson, Michael Fullan, Bob Kegan, and Joanne Quinn – to write a report for the Hewlett Foundation on what we have all been learning about systemic change in education over the past twenty years. Based on that report, a new project – “Deep Learning and the new Common Core Standards” – has been initiated with initial support from Hewlett with about a dozen school systems across the country (who together have over 20,000 teachers and almost a half million students) to explore if these new “Common Core State Standards” (CCCS) could be a vehicle for fundamental innovation benefiting all students. This offers us a rare opportunity to explore how the wonderful accomplishments and know-how in systems thinking, education for sustainability, and innovation in pedagogy and instructional design we have all been part of this past twenty years can be brought to a much larger scale.


Approved by 45 states and 3 territories, the new CCSS could signal a new era of innovation in American schools. They could represent an impulse into our educational system that might once again bring American schools to a frontier of global leadership.  They could be part of revitalizing education as a profession of choice among talented young people.   Most of all, they could mean that all students have educational opportunity commensurate with the challenges they will face in their lifetimes – as workers and citizens in an increasingly interdependent world confronting unprecedented economic, social, and ecological imbalances.


But the new CCSS will not automatically have this impact.  We believe realizing this potential for change will take

  • ongoing innovation in curriculum, instruction and assessment,
  • sophistication in whole system change, and
  • high-leverage capacity building to develop leaders at all levels – teachers, principals, superintendents and boards, and the larger community, including students.

In short, to create the schools of the future, everyone – adults and students alike – need to be learners.[1]


The new initiative blends on-the-ground capacity building and change in schools and classrooms with a new “system leaders” network (superintendents and board members) working to better build long-term public support for ongoing innovation.  For example, we believe that there exists, today, a strong but largely unarticulated consensus among leading businesses that they need people who can think, who can work together to solve complex problems, who can excel at non-routine cognitive and productive work, and who are self-motivated learners with a foundation of personal maturity that can help them to sort out the complex ethical issues they will face as workers and citizens. Such skills are not the fantasy of idealistic educators. They are the requirements of increasingly knowledge-intensive businesses – many of who, not surprisingly, have all but given up on these requirements being met by our public schools.


In a nutshell, our aim in the Deep Learning the new Common Core Standards project is to show, through a combination of innovation on the ground and building shared vision among the larger stakeholder community, that real change is possible and that the leadership needed exists and is stepping forward now.

[1] see … Hewlett foundation website, other websites.

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