Common Core Implementation Progresses

The new Common Core standards are a set of academic standards for grades K-12 in English language arts and math aimed at better preparing future generations for college and work. New science standards, called the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), were adopted by California in September 2013 and will be finalized in May 2014.

The state is currently implementing Common Core standards into public school curriculum. Student understanding of these standards will be evaluated through assessments produced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a federally-funded association of educators, researchers and state policy makers working to finalize a Common Core assessment by the 2014-2015 school year.

The fully computerized Common Core exams will be administered for the first time to juniors at all three schools in the district in May of 2015. The only mock Common Core exam will take place at Alta Vista this May.

“The state chooses one school per district to conduct a field test of the Common Core,” Associate Superintendent Brigitte Sarraf said. “For our district, the state chose Alta Vista. All juniors at Alta Vista, a total of about 35 students, will participate in the field test this spring.”

A shift from previous years, the sophomore life science CST will be the only CST given this year, as it is a federal requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act and the NGSS have not been implemented yet.

Common Core exams will be proctored online, so expanding the internet bandwidth has been the major technological issue surrounding Common Core preparations. The school is installing more wireless routers to resolve this issue by next school year.

The district will address computer availability concerns once the state releases more information about Common Core testing.

With a focus on studying fewer subjects with more depth than the former state standards, the Common Core standards also emphasize critical thinking and analysis. Although most of the standards emphasize academic skill building, there are also technology skill standards incorporated into the academic ones.

“There are Common Core technology standards asking that students learn how to incorporate different types of media and use different types of presentation formats in their learning,” history teacher Carson Rosenberg said.

District technology instructional coach Shelley Carranza has spent the past few months helping teachers adapt to new technology programs such as Edmodo and Padlet, which enhance students’ understanding of the more challenging concepts of Common Core.

“I learned about these [technologies] through conferences,” Carranza said. “I’ve been able to [organize and find] a lot of resources that are online that build upon the Common Core standards.”

In addition to consulting Carranza, teachers in each department from each school have formed voluntary Common Core technology course teams who collaborate and attend professional development relating to technology integration in the classroom. Through these course teams, teachers have learned to assist students in learning both academic and technology standards with the same online programs Carranza has worked with.

English teacher Margaret Bennett believes that technology has made a positive impact on the way her students learned certain skills required by the standards.

“We need students to be able to use new technology as it comes out, and the idea is that [both teachers and students] are adapting,” Bennett said. “The technology is really powerful in that it is more engaging and individually accountable.”

However, teachers are unsure of the exact exam format.

“The standards themselves make a lot of sense,” Bennett said. “What remains to be seen is how the [finalized] exam is going to assess those skills learned by the standards, as [English teachers] don’t know what is going to be tested.”

Overall, the district believes that the schools are very well prepared for the Common Core assessments.

“The schools have made enormous progress to prepare for the changes that the Common Core will bring,” Sarraf said. “I believe the district is in a very good position, and we are ready for our students to take the Common Core exams.”