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California schools move into Common Core

New approach emphasizes more than getting the answer

Cynthia E. Griffin | 8/14/2014, midnight
With school starting around the region, parents need to know about a critical change that is being launched full scale ...

With school starting around the region, parents need to know about a critical change that is being launched full scale at public schools in Los Angeles County.

Known as the Common Core state educational standards, the program represents a new approach to looking at education and teaching. The Common Core standards are learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. They also help teachers ensure that their students have the skills and knowledge needed to be successful, while also helping parents to understand what is expected of their children.

What makes this effort different is that the state education chiefs and governors in 48 states came together to develop the Common Core standards, which are college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.

Currently 43 states voluntarily adopted and implemented the standards, and ideally this will eliminate the educational disparities often found in the past from state to state.

In addition, in California school districts, the way educators are approaching teaching is different. Fill-in bubble tests are essentially a thing of the past. Instead, according to Compton Superintendent Darren Brawley, there will be a lot of project-based learning and rather than just finding the answer, students will spend more time reading, writing and explaining exactly how they arrive at a solution.

“In kindergarten, for example they learn numbers, shapes and colors. But now instead of just learning the shapes, students may be asked to describe the similarities and difference,” explained Brawley, adding that they may also be asked to manipulate the shapes or colors on a computer.

One key difference is interactivity, added Brawley, noting that parents now can get involved by ensuring that their children have the ability to talk you through the steps involved in solving problems.

In order to assess how well students are mastering the content, new state-wide tests were created in California based on the Common Core, and school districts have been rolling them out over the last several years.

According to the website, www.capta.org, the new testing system called Smarter Balanced, will evaluate student achievement in a more meaningful way by leveraging technology that tailors questions to responses.

The new standards and tests will:

• Promote students to think more deeply and critically about the content they learn in school across disciplines;

• Encourage educators to provide deeper learning opportunities for students.

• Measure student progress toward college-and-career readiness, enabling educators to diagnose any problems and intervene accordingly; and

• Test student achievement in a more meaningful way by leveraging technology that tailors questions to responses.

The www.capta.org website is the parent guide to Common Core.