by Jazlynn Pastor
In 2010, forty-five states adopted the Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, which will be applied towards students from kindergarten through twelfth grade and focus on math, writing, and science when the program is implemented at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.
The stated goal of Common Core is to better prepare students for “the real world.” Common Core places less emphasis on memorization and more on analysis and critical thinking. It is created to prepare students for the global economy. According to The Hunt Institute, “Practitioners, content experts, teachers, researchers, and leaders of higher education and business” created the program. After research and communication with other countries, “These standards (were) developed by states, for states.” The nation’s governors and education commissioners led the initiative.
Teachers, researchers, and leading experts are the sole creators of the program’s standards. Each state has the choice whether of not to implement the Common Core State Standards. Following a state’s decision, it is the responsibility of school boards, local teachers, principals and superintendents to imply the standards.
The San Marino Unified School District has begun to prepare for the new curriculum and standards by providing students in grades three through eight and eleven with practice tests for English-language arts and mathematics. Sample online testing gives students and parents an opportunity to better understand the changes associated with Common Core and how the testing process will change.
In addition to the emphasis on higher order thinking skills and greater depth of knowledge, the computer program analyzes the responses of a student and progressively challenges the student with more difficult questions if the student demonstrates mastery of the easier questions. By fall of 2013, the tests should be enhanced through its performance tasks in mathematics, new accommodations for students with disabilities and scoring rubrics.
To better understand the program, The Tribune reached out to Dr. Gary McGuigan, SMUSD’s assistant superintendent of instructional services.
Tribune: What is your description of the Common Core?
Dr. McGuigan: Our motto in the San Marino Unified School District is ‘Delivering a world-class education with recognized excellence in Academics, Arts, and Athletics.’ We believe that implementing the new Common Core State Standards will help us achieve that end. In 2010, the California State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards including California specific standards. These Common Core Standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade. Common Core provides clarity and consistency in what is expected of student learning across the country and provides a benchmark against international standards to better prepare our students to succeed in a global economy. Common Core is designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are well-prepared to enter college and university programs or enter the workforce. Having the same standards helps all students get an excellent education, even if they change schools or move to a different state.
Tribune: Does the district or state have to educate San Marino’s teachers on implementing the Common Core program?
Dr. McGuigan: For the last two years, our teachers have been involved in a variety of professional development opportunities with implementing Common Core, which establishes what students need to learn, but not how teachers should teach. Our teachers have participated in Common Core workshops from the Los Angeles County Office of Education, UCLA, UCSB and the Association of California School Administrators. Teachers and support staff have been involved with site-based professional development to give them teaching strategies that will give our students a deep understanding of Common Core.
Tribune: How do you believe the Common Core will change a student’s ability to learn?
Dr. McGuigan: Common Core will ensure that our students are provided with rigorous content and application of higher knowledge thinking through higher order thinking skills. In English, our students will focus to a greater extent on text complexity, addressing reading and writing across the curriculum and writing arguments by citing evidence from sources. For mathematics, it will still be important to solve a problem(s) with speed and accuracy, but to explain the process that shows a deep understanding of choosing the appropriate concept for application.
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