California Educator

September 2013

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Learning Common Core Transitioning to Common Core Standards CTA provides resources, training, and assistance BY FRANK WELLS E D U C AT O R S A R E H E A D I N G back to school with a mix of optimism and anxiety over the transition to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which all districts are required to implement, along with new technology-based assessments, in 2014-15. The new standards focus on college and career readiness, with new expectations for high school achievement and greater cross-curricular literacy. Districts are at varying levels of readiness for the change. Some have taken a head-in-thesand approach, while others, often at the push of their local CTA chapters, have established transition teams and are working collaboratively with educators on the change. Some CTA locals are "going it alone," taking advantage of CTA Instruction and Professional Development (IPD) workshops without support from their district. Chapters like the San Juan Teachers Association have formalized collaborative efforts around Common Core through memorandums of understanding or contract language. CTA believes all districts should have transition teams with a majority of union-appointed CTA members. In response to CTA calls to "go slow to go smart" and provide necessary resources to implement the CCSS, the adopted state budget includes $1.25 billion in Common Core funding over the next two years. The funds can be used for instructional materials, professional development and technology. CTA local chapters are urged to demand to bargain and consult over the use of these funds, as well as other impacts and effects of implementing the new standards. Another reason to move slowly but deliberately is that during the transition period, California Standards Tests (CSTs) will still be based on standards adopted in 1997. The STAR/ CST testing ends in 2014, with the new CCSSbased Smarter Balanced testing beginning the following year. There is wide consensus that test scores under the new system will dip the first few years. CTA continues to offer a wealth of resources around the CCSS. This year's IPD strand at the CTA Summer Institute focused five intensive days on the new standards. Plumas County Teachers Association member Cathy Hunter was among the more than 400 participants; she sees the CCSS as a welcome change. Hunter, who trained to teach in Nevada, says What did you learn about Common Core at CTA's Summer Institute? I learned this is going back to the essence of what education really means, teaching kids to think critically, to be creative about their topic, to earn their learning. It's giving teachers power to teach the way some of us were taught. ANITA MADDEN Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association Smarter Balanced presents an opportunity to assess in a much better, more holistic way. Instead of pigeonholing kids into multiple-choice answers, it opens it up so students can express what they really understand. The downside is we haven't been teaching in this way. I understand where the fear comes from. It's just that we need to prepare ourselves. The current CST already causes a lot of anxiety, but if we develop a culture where it's OK to make mistakes and to learn from them, I think the new CCSS will put teachers and students on a much more productive road. ROSEMARY VELASCO Fresno Teachers Association I don't think teachers should fear the new standards. It's a shift from purely content to skills and application. I think they can help take student learning to the next level. CLAY WALKER Teachers Association of Norwalk-La Mirada I know there are concerns about the learning curve for the new technology, but I think that concern applies more to us than to students. They grew up with this stuff — teachers are digital immigrants; our students are digital natives. CATHY HUNTER, Plumas County Teachers Association CAROL WRIGHT Auburn Union Teachers Association 50 Educator 09 Sep 2013 v3.6 int.indd 50 S E P T E M B E R 2013 9/3/13 2:26 PM

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