DUSD transitions to common core standards

DOWNEY - What do the esoteric-sounding 'Common Core State Standards' (CCSS) mean, and what's their effect on how DUSD students are taught, now and in the future?The common core state standards were developed in 2009 by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association to better prepare students for college or the modern workforce and otherwise enable them to be more competitive in the fast-changing global marketplace. They were adopted in 2010 by a number of states, which traditionally had held on to their prerogative of crafting their own set of educational standards. To date, 45 states are either already transitioning to or starting to transition to these new standards. California belongs to the latter group. Basically, to use a rough and ready comparison, the old state standards were based on memorization; by contrast, the new standards emphasize depth of understanding of the material. CCSS' plan of attack is to effect shifts initially in the teaching and assessment of English and math, and later add literacy skills in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Another marked difference between the old and the new standards: where before, answers were multiple-choice, now the student's comprehension of the topic will be tested and judged against the "four C's of 21st century skills": critical thinking, communication (ability to listen, read and write), collaboration (team problem-solving rather than by oneself), and creativity (this is where one's imagination can have free play). These and other related developments were presented in a live report to the board of education at its regular meeting on Tuesday last week by an educational services department team headed by assistant superintendent Leslie Jones (the other two presenters: curriculum instruction and assessment director Denise Takano and program administrator Dalyn Miller-Geiser). They emphasized that CCSS does not provide a completed curriculum (with scope and sequence) nor a course syllabus or pacing plan nor all the essential skills and knowledge students could have, but only an outline of the "most important essential skills and knowledge every student needs to master to succeed in college and careers." Armed with this outline, the teacher can then use all his/her creative faculties in mapping out a learning plan based on his/her needs. As luck would have it, because of its dedicated efforts to continually improve student instruction and assessment, as well as teacher training, DUSD finds itself to have had a headstart towards CCSS implementation in 2015, with its SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) lesson design program, professional learning communities, and guided reading program already in place, which all started in 2006. All it needs to focus on heavily is stepped-up professional development of its K-12 teachers/instructional staff. There is a need also for teachers' committees to look at which ELA and math materials to adopt, as well as reach a decision on what next generation science standards (NGS) should be used by September 2014 (its key criterion, according to Jones: glitz vs. substance). Further, the need to instruct the 50 people who compose the original Common Core Coalition (CCC), the continued effective utilization of all available resources (national, state, and local), and investment in parent education, so that all components of the local educational process-the student, the teacher, the parent, and the community-will act in concert towards implementation of CCSS, will not be overlooked. With the new educational paradigm, assuming proper protocols are observed, there's no reason not to project bright futures for DUSD's students.

********** Published: July 4, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 12