California Educator

February 2013

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> ABOUT TEACHING Jail,��� under current practices students might be asked to write ���about a time you felt something was unfair.��� More textdependent questioning might ask, ���What can you infer from King���s letter about the letter he received?��� The language standards also emphasize vocabulary development and collaborative discussion. Common Core What you need to know now BY FRANK WELLS A major shift in literacy emphasis and a stronger balance between mathematics procedural knowledge and understanding are key components of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). California will begin fully implementing assessments in the 2014-15 school year. The state is preparing for the transition and many districts are already gearing up, so CTA members are advised to become familiar with the coming changes now. BACKGROUND The new standards were developed based in part on work already done at the state level (California and Massachusetts were models), and were designed to meet college and career readiness standards adopted in 2009. Most states have adopted the CCSS, with only Virginia, Texas, Alaska, Nebraska and Minnesota not participating. Developed through the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with feedback from states, teachers, higher education, and the general public, the final standards were released on June 2, 2010. The California State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the standards with additions of its own two months later. Aligning to college and workplace expectations, the new standards were based on evidence and research, include rigorous content and knowledge application though higher level skills, and are internationally benchmarked to prepare students to succeed in a global economy. College and career readiness are the overall focus even at the earliest grade levels. While adopting 100 percent of the national standards, the SBE added an additional 15 percent that are specific to California. The language arts additions include formal presentations at all grade levels and penmanship in grades 2-4. Additional math requirements include probability and statistics, operations and algebraic thinking in grades 2-5, and shifts in grade level introductions to math concepts, moving some subjects earlier and others later. In January, the SBE voted 20 California Educator February 2013 to eliminate California���s controversial additional algebra requirement for eighthgraders, although students ready for that subject may still be able to take it. LANGUAGE ARTS With that in mind, the new Englishlanguage arts standards are significantly different, shifting to a much greater focus on informational text. Currently only 15 percent of text in elementary school is informational, yet that makes up 80 percent of the reading done in college and the workforce. Informational text is harder to understand, and students who haven���t had enough experience with it run into problems after graduating. The new standards will shift the informational/narrative percentages to 50/50 at the elementary level, 60/40 in middle school, and 75/25 in high school. How students respond to text-based questions will also change, as there will be greater emphasis on providing evidence from reading to support their answers. Rather than simply being asked how they feel about what they have read or how an issue in the reading relates to their own lives, students will be pressed to present arguments justiied by the text they have read. For example, after reading Dr. Martin Luther King���s ���Letter from a Birmingham COMMON CORE AND TESTING Although the specific content and assessment practices may be changing, what is generally measured and when remains governed by current No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top requirements. Students will be tested in both English-language arts and math in grades 3-8, and at least once in each subject area in grades 10-12. Although most in the education community are supportive of the common national standards, they are not completely without controversy. As mentioned, ive states have not adopted them. Some educators lament what they call a ���one-size-its-all��� approach, a criticism also leveled against No Child Let Behind (NCLB), while others criticize what they see as a further shit away from local control. TEACHERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO LOOK FOR GAPS IN KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS STUDENTS WILL NEED TO OVERCOME TO DO WELL UNDER THE NEW SYSTEM. Most, however, view the move to the new standards as very positive, even necessary, and the initiative has received widespread support from leading education and business leaders. NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen praised the initiative: ���These standards have the potential to support teachers in achieving NEA���s purpose of preparing students to thrive in a democratic society and a diverse, changing world as knowledgeable, creative and engaged citizens and lifelong learners.��� Still, at least one aspect of the new assessments leaves some educators apprehensive. Moving from what are largely fill-in-the-bubble-style tests to computer or tablet based assessment assumes students are computer literate, and that���s not always

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