School districts prep for new standards
Kathie Francis, California Standardized Testing site coordinator, checks test booklets for CST testing Thursday at Imperial High School in Imperial. (JOSELITO VILLERO PHOTO / May 19, 2013)
The common core standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and four territories, are set to not only change the way students learn, but the way they are tested as well.
The new standards are designed to be relevant in the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills students need for success in both higher education and career, according to the state Department of Education.
Students in the state will be assessed on these new standards beginning 2015 on computer-based tests, rather than the Scantron and test booklets they have been accustomed to.
“We’re moving away from regurgitating back facts, memorizing it and dropping it to really having to apply it in a relevant way,” said Dorene Johnson, senior director of curriculum at the Imperial County Office of Education. “We need to make sure we are giving students the skills they need so they’re ready to face the unknown.”
The new standards will focus on the four “C’s,” or communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, Johnson said.
“The 4 C’s will make sure students can really read, write, speak, think and problem solve,” she said. “I think to sum up, these are exciting times for us as educators to step back and make sure what we’re doing with students mirrors the world and prepares them for the world they are going to face.”
To help prepare local districts for the change, ICOE has been focusing on showing teachers and administrators the “why” behind the change, Johnson said.
“This isn’t change for the sake of change,” Johnson said. “We are preparing students for an ever-changing world in a global economy so that they can be competitive.”
While the process of introduction to implementation can seem daunting, Johnson said the county’s teachers are up to the task.
“My experience has been that when teachers really delve into the standards, they see we can do this,” she said. “We have great teachers here.”
Of the two consortiums writing the common core assessments, the state adopted the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium, which asks that all students in grades three through eight and 11 be tested during a 12-week period.
“You have to stagger the test because I imagine schools don’t have the computers to test all their students at the same time,” said Elena Castro, Imperial County assistant superintendent.
Although schools may not have the monetary or technological means to test a majority their students at the same time, Castro reassured they would still be able to learn the standards.
“It’s not all about technology,” Castro said. “Of course you want to use technology because that’s how kids connect to the real world, but it’s really about helping the students develop the (four C’s).”
In order for students to be able to develop these 21st century skills, Castro said classrooms and the way they are operated will undergo major changes.
“Classrooms will still be very organized,” Castro said. “But you’ll see a lot more hands-on, small-group projects and project-based learning that will reinforce communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.”
While some local schools are making the effort to begin phasing in the new standards, Castro said they will have the difficulty of juggling them with the current content standards.
In an effort to help make the transition smoother, a bill has been set in motion by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord to suspend the current Standardized Testing and Reporting Program effective July 1, Castro said.