Keeping Up with Common Core
by Jaki Jones
Aug 01, 2013 | 478 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
If you have children who attend a public or charter school, you may have heard about the transition to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Common Core State Standards initiative was led by two national organizations: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Association (NGA) in order to effect broad education reform effort in the United States. Educators, post-secondary faculty, curriculum and assessment experts, and community groups, to name a few, helped shape the new education standards.

The California State Board of Education adopted the CCSS in August 2010 and approved it on March 7, 2012. Since 2010, 45 states have adopted the same standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. (California has been teaching the California Content Standards for over 10 years.)

Why the transition from California State Standards to a national set of standards? The idea is that the standards, once learned, will prepare students--regardless of location or socio-economic factors--to be globally competitive and ready for college and career success. Ideally, all students will leave high school with the same content knowledge and same skill sets and enter college without the need for remediation. For years, states have been setting different standards and assessments for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. The new standards are consistent from school to school and state to state.

CCSS is divided into two sections: English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects and Mathematics, which are broken up by grade levels. Common Core does not dictate how teachers should teach, allowing for more freedom and flexibility in their approach to teaching. Because there are fewer standards with Common Core, teachers can focus on teaching in depth key skills and take more time to teach core concepts and procedures well—and to give students the opportunity to master them. The standards are designed to encourage higher-order thinking, collaboration, research and problem solving. Students will be expected to read more “informational text” as well as classic literature.

So what can you expect to see this coming school year? The Mt. Diablo School District is in Phase 2 of its 3-Phase transition into Common Core. Plans include: adopting new math instructional materials; continuing teacher training of new ELA and math frame-works; piloting units of study and lesson plans; building awareness of new science standards; and implementing recommendations from the Technology Advisory Committee for classroom technology enhancement, among other items. It will also be the last year of the STAR tests as the district transitions to the Smarter Balanced Assessments in grades 3-8 and grade 11. Full implementation of CCSS and assessments is expected in the 2014-2015 school year.

Because Mt. Diablo has not yet adopted textbooks that align with the CCSS, it may pose a challenge for teachers this school year. Most schools will continue to use the Houghton-Mifflin language arts text and workbooks, which are not entirely Common Core friendly. Valhalla Principal Marji Calbeck said, “We have materials that we are using in Language Arts to bridge and supplement the Houghton Mifflin and on-going teacher training is being provided”.

The shift to CCSS will increase rigor in instruction and include more expository writing in math, science and social studies. In addition, a stronger emphasis will be placed on the use of technology and digital media to collaborate, research and present information and students will be asked more open-ended questions to prove their knowledge and expertise on the subject matter being taught. Stephanie Giovanetti, Hidden Valley Elementary second grade teacher says, “Teachers will need to create and find lessons that match with the new Common Core. Many of us are taking workshops in the summer; this will help me begin my transition.” Giovanetti is optimistic that the new standards will engage learning. “I do feel it addresses different learning styles. Common Core makes children think more for themselves. You pose a question and they discuss and discover the answers on their own. The hard part is they are going to have to be able to answer the question ‘why?’ These new standards expects more in-depth learning of a subject matter as opposed to just skimming the surface,” she continued.

Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s new, $96.3 billion budget and includes $1.25 billion in school district funding to prepare for Common Core State Standards that may be used for professional development, textbook adoptions, technology and supplies for students.

Smarter Balanced assessments will be implemented in the 2014-15 school year and will assess students’ mastery of the Common Core. Parents can review online practice tests by going to For more information on Common Core, visit Opponents of Common Core have created a website called Truth in American Education.

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