Common Core implementation
The second trimester for this year ends this month, and elementary report cards will be going home after President’s weekend. The current report card reflects student progress on the state standards as demonstrated on the CFAs or common formative assessments.
All of that is in the process of changing because the elementary schools will be transitioning to the new Common Core standards next year. Report cards are currently tied to the grade-level-specific California standards, but the state has adopted the national Common Core which will require revisions in the report cards.
Common Core reduced the number of standards that will need to be taught and more clearly defined the desired student outcomes. The hope is that the narrower scope will allow students and teachers to go into greater depth. They are defined as robust, rigorous and relevant.
These new standards were developed after backwards mapping the skills college students needed upon graduating. Since many jobs require the reading of technical manuals, nonfiction material will now be emphasized more in school.
Students will be expected to read more complex material and site evidence from the text in written online tests rather than fill in the bubble types. While literary texts will still be used, the focus is shifting to at least 50 percent informational reading.
Jeff Bottoms, director of curriculum and instructional technology, has presented an overview of the new standards at the various school sites, emphasizing the need to form curriculum articulation groups to build the capacity for this new change.
Porterville Unified School District will be providing release time for nine sets of grade levels teams (K-8) to meet in the coming months and build new instructional units for the Common Core standards.
West Ed will be providing professional development support to help with this transition. They will lead teachers through this process by sharing models and strategies that are needed to shift from the old methods to the new.
The goal is to prepare half a dozen units of study for each grade level in both math and language arts that align to the new standards by this fall. Standards will be clustered in order to provide for more integration.
Normally, the textbook companies would do this. Of course, one of the drawbacks is that textbook development is lagging behind the implementation schedule. Lacking appropriately aligned instructional materials, teachers will be creating lesson plans from the current texts.
Previously, the state would put several of the approved texts on the adoption list. Then the district would pilot a few and adopt their favorite.
It used to be that each year the textbook adoption cycle shifted to a different subject, and new books were purchased. The current economic times and the need for the new textbooks to align to the Common Core standards have meant no new adoptions for language arts or math.
Another problem is that the cost for the old tests used to be $9 per student. Now it’s estimated to cost $26 per student. Part of the reason for this price increase is the new test is slated to be given in five languages.
Director of Programs and Assessment Martha Stuemky also spoke on various campuses about what is known thus far regarding testing implementation. All Common Core testing will be done on computers.
Several months ago, the ninth-graders at Harmony Magnet piloted the new performance task-based tests. The IT personnel worked diligently to deal with frozen computers and monitored bandwidth use.
Belleview’s sixth-graders are slated to test pilot the new online assessments in early May. The district is awaiting word on the grade levels that will be selected at other schools for piloting.
Testing for all elementary schools will be start in 2014. The district will be allowed three months to complete all the testing rather than the current three-week window, in order to accommodate cycling all the classes through the computer labs for these longer tests. Implementing Common Core looks to be quite a new adventure.
(Mrs. McCracken has written previously on the Common Core. Her previous columns on the subject ran Oct. 19, 2012, and Sept. 20, 2011.)
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at email@example.com.