During the 2014-15 school year, California public school students in grades three to 11 will face a new set of standardized tests aligned to a new educational standard called the Common Core State Standards.

What is distinctive about these new standards is that they were jointly developed by educators and others in 48 states, and since 2010 have been adopted by 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

The goal of this state-led change was to establish a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that states would voluntarily adopt.

The initial focus on the Common Core State Standards has been to develop standardized English language arts and mathematics guidelines and curricula.

According to the Common Core website, www.ocrestandards.org, the standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the work force.

“School officers from 48 states came together in a nonpartisan effort because they were concerned about the remediation (students were having to take) when they went to college,” said Barbara Murchison, administrator of the Common Core Systems implementation office within the California Department of Education.

Murchison noted that this national concern prompted the states to act and, in the process, officials discovered that the same information needed to enter colleges was needed to efficiently and effectively move into the work world.

So ideally, if a child moves from one school to another, or from one state to another, they are supposed to learn the same things.

What is different about the Common Core is the increased emphasis on writing, utilizing critical thinking skills and problem solving.

In the Inglewood Unified School District, a transitional kindergarten with a “beefed up” curriculum has been created, according to Susan Ipponi, executive director of curriculum and instruction.

“Students will learn the alphabet earlier as well as sounds and develop a sense of oral and written language,” explained Ipponi, adding for example that now by first grade, youngsters will be able to write complete sentences independently. This is a critical change from how youngsters were previously taught.

Another modification that is part of the Common Core Standards is a change in the way students will be tested. The goal is to switch to computerized testing for pupils at all levels.

Ipponi says this means students will begin computer instruction in kindergarten. She said they will learn concepts such as drop-down menus and how to refer from one document to another when writing. These skills should be mastered by third grade.

What is distinctive about this computerized testing is that it will be adaptive, says Murchison. She said this means the computer program will automatically and continuously adjust the difficulty level of the questions to the student’s knowledge.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education Tuesday voted 6-0, to enter into a contract with Apple Inc. to implement phase one of its Common Core Technology Project Plan (CCTPP).

Apple’s was one of 13 proposals submitted for the $50-million contract that will provide a computing device for every student at 47 district K-12 schools. This phased-in purchase is part of an effort to make sure all young people in the LAUSD are prepared to participate in the district’s transition to the Common Core Standards.

The goal is to equip every student with a device by 2014.

“This (the computerized Common Core test) is a great tool for teachers because it gives them a better understanding of exactly where kids are,” said Murchison. “It’s great for kids, because then the kids don’t think the whole thing is too hard. It keeps them engaged, and it’s very important that kids are engaged in the test.”

According to Murchison, another change will see students bringing home more writing assignments and more emphasis placed on utilizing information contained in documents to inform their opinions.

Another change and goal of the Common Core State Standards is to give students a much deeper knowledge of subjects.

California, which adopted the standards in August 2010, has created a website that provides information on the new Common Core State Standards as well as links to a number of other websites (including the National PTA and the council of great city schools) that explain for parents exactly how the change will impact their children at each grade level. Parents can go to www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc/ and look at the tab labeled student/parents. A Community Partners section talks about how the new standards will impact businesses and others.

The state department of education has also been conducting continuous training programs to help teachers and administrators learn how to implement and teach the new Common Core standards.

Gov. Jerry Brown has also allocated $1.25 million in his 2013-14 budget to help schools obtain the curriculum, computer equipment and software needed as well as do the professional development. Realizing that some districts and schools may not be technologically prepared for the transition, the department of education has put a technology survey on its website, and encourages districts and individual charter schools to log in and indicate their readiness level and any gaps in preparedness: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/sbac-itr-index.asp.