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NUSD Moving to Common Core Standards — Far from Common

NUSD addresses the Common Core State Standards and what they're doing to prepare for the transition.

Since 2010, 45 states and four U.S. territories have adopted the same standards for English and math called the Common Core Standards.  In 2009, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices committed to developing a set of standards that would help prepare students for success in college and career. 

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was a voluntary, state-led effort coordinated by these two groups to establish clear and consistent education standards.  Parents, educators, content experts, researchers, national organizations, and community groups from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia all participated in the development of the standards. 

These new standards were developed by states and for states; built upon strengths and lessons learned in states and the experiences of teachers, content experts, and leading thinkers; and feedback from the general public.  They were informed by other top performing countries, and grounded in research and evidence. The CCSS were developed for English-language arts and mathematics, kindergarten through 12th grade.

On Aug. 2, 2010, the California State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations of the Academic Content Standards Commission, a commission established by Senate Bill 1 from the fifth Extraordinary Session, to develop academic content standards in language arts and mathematics. Prior to adoption, the standards commission evaluated the CCSS for rigor and alignment to California standards. They inserted words, phrases and select California standards in their entirety to maintain California’s high expectations for students.  Implementation of the CCSS began after the adoption in August 2010.  A timeline from the California Department of Education can be found here.  

For Novato Unified School District and districts all over the country, a successful transition to implement these standards requires careful planning and professional development. At NUSD, we are working on building foundational resources and opportunities within our district to strengthen our teachers’ knowledge on the shifts with instruction as we implement CCSS.

In August 2012, NUSD began the school year by providing multiple opportunities for teachers to attend trainings on materials that support the CCSS implementation and higher order thinking skills. In the early fall, we established CCSS collaborative groups for K-12 English language arts, elementary math, secondary math and elementary science in order to develop teacher leaders that can help inform and support teachers at all sites with the new standards. These groups meet monthly and have been providing important information to all teachers.

With the transition to CCSS under way, it is our goal to include all stakeholders as we support teachers through these exciting times. We will do this by providing parent newsletters that highlight the Common Core Initiative, hold parent education nights to inform parents and the community, and present new and evolving information to our board members as we strengthen our instruction and curriculum.

We will be holding our first Parent Education Night on the Common Core State Standards at 6 p.m. March 11 at the district office. 

— Amanda Langford, Ruthanne Bexton, Megan Pettis and Vicki Romero, NUSD Curriculum and Instruction

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tina McMillan February 12, 2013 at 05:27 PM
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/02/06/20vocabulary_ep.h32.html?tkn=TZMFgk7NAkmjOoC5gr4c2bOzxwjAgLv%2BoQnD&cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1 Focus On: Literacy Students Must Learn More Words, Say Studies By Sarah D. Sparks "Ms. Neuman and Ms. Wright found limited vocabulary instruction across the board, but students in poverty—the ones prior research shows enter school knowing 10,000 fewer words than their peers from higher-income families—were the least likely to get instruction in academically challenging words. ...The Michigan studies are "immensely valuable in calling attention to the problem, and to the way early-literacy instruction fails to overcome the verbal gaps between demographic groups," said E.D. Hirsch Jr., the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and a professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia. Mr. Hirsch has written extensively about the essential role of background knowledge, including the words and concepts common to "culturally literate" Americans, in children's education. In an essay published in the Winter 2013 issue of City Journal, Mr. Hirsch argues that expanding students' vocabulary is "the key to upward mobility," for example, because college-entrance exams such as the ACT and the SAT and military exams such as the Armed Forces Qualification Test demand such knowledge."
Tina McMillan February 12, 2013 at 06:41 PM
NUSD is to be commended for accepting the challenge of working toward common core standards that will eventually be implemented throughout the United States. The question remains whether the curriculum they are using is sufficient to achieve lasting change that will be reflected in test scores by Junior High and High School. Struggling learners such as children living in poverty, English language learners, and children with special needs are the most impacted by lack of oral vocabulary necessary to develop reading comprehension through out elementary school. Later in middle school and high school we see another drop in scores where a broader range of students appear to lack a sufficient foundation in English Language Arts. Hirsch believes the answer is in curriculum that has a well defined content based curriculum that is repeated throughout elementary school with increasing depth and range.
Tina McMillan February 12, 2013 at 06:49 PM
In NUSD, fourth-grade Common Core standard goals are for a student to "Explain events, procedures, ideas or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text." There is nothing about which events and which ideas should be studied. The California content standards for history in fourth grade focus on California only. The difference in Core Knowledge curriculum for 4th grade is that the Core Knowledge sequence says that fourth-grade students will study events, people and ideas from the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, early Christianity, Islam and Islamic civilization, early and medieval African kingdoms, feudal England, Chinese civilization from the Qin dynasty to the Ming dynasty, the American Revolution, the U.S. Constitution and early presidents. Hirsch's belief in content based curriculum predates the progressive movement in public education. California was once a state whose public education system succeeded in providing an excellent education for all students. Blaming funding challenges for the precipitous drop in performance is short sighted. Looking at how content has changed in the past 80 years is the real answer. Sol Stern in an article on curriculum reform, describes the process beginning in the 1930's where content based curriculum was shifted in favor of skill based. The results have been disastrous. http://www.city-journal.org/2012/22_3_curriculum-reform.html
Grace Reed February 12, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Kudos to NUSD for proactively engaging the community as we embark on a fabulous curriculum path! I am excited and encouraged by this well-reasoned approach to curriculum, something so clearly supported and endorsed by many dozens of states. NUSD is already a shining star, with so many excellent schools, incredible academic and extracurricular achievements by students and staff, not to mention stellar test scores. This is the icing on the cake for NUSD! Well done, bravo, NUSD.
D Rex February 12, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Did ED Hirsch issue a statement regarding comments from Core Knowledge founding teacher Kevin McDonald from Rancho? Kevin McDonald in Novato, California, "My school in California is being flooded with illegals, draining resources and lowering the academic level of the class. Parents are running to private schools. If someone thinks cheap immigrant labor saves them money, ask them to think about how much it would cost to send their kids to a private school from kindergarten through high school." Kevins comments comments 15 paragraphs down http://www.alipac.us/f12/lou-dobbs-cnn-3-8-05-a-323/
Cate Lecuyer (Editor) February 12, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Hi all, thanks for the comments on this thread. We would like to again make it clear that these threads should be for posting your original comments only, not those of others made recently or in the past. Please: keep it to posting your own original comments. We will delete those comments left in violation of that request.
K8Teacher February 13, 2013 at 03:21 PM
NUSD is leading the way with this adoption and implementation. We will continue to improve and provide the best learning environments we can. The call for "Core Knowledge" from a handful of charter parents from Rancho is divisive and unecessary. Why rob schools already stretched for resources? There are a plethora of teaching methods/curriculum/pedagogy out there, but no proof "Core Knowledge" is better. It is actually quite rote. Years ago reading skills were taught through a "whole language" or integrated approach. Phonics instruction decreased importance while spiriling language flourished. As times change, so do preferences, hence the standardized SRA Open Court and Houghton Mifflin we have used. There is linked learning, montessori, waldorf, home schooling expeditionary learning schools etc. To hear a small group of non-educators profess the values of "Core Knowledge" when these very same people tried to convert Rancho to an International Baccalaureate last year is deceitful. This charter proposal is not about providing "choice". I look forward to the rich, rigorous, flexible and enriching Common Core regimen for our students. Thanks NUSD!
John Parnell February 13, 2013 at 04:16 PM
This is literally about the 50th time you have posted this. Can you write an original thought?
Tina McMillan February 13, 2013 at 06:01 PM
Core standards are a goal not a curriculum. Ed Week is a U.S. national news site covering K-12 education. You can sign up to receive updates and follow articles. Ed Week spotlighted the issue of language acquisition and in particular Hirsch's model of content based curriculum because he has been writing extensively on this issue for a quarter of a century. Education and language development have not flourished or we wouldn't have a goal of reaching the same core standards as a national policy. What has happened is that education in the U.S. has failed to maintain the same progress and standards as it has in other countries. The issue of using public charters to examine curriculum choice is a also a national issue and has been supported by Presidents on both sides of the aisle. Converting Rancho to a charter with an International Baccalaureate program was not deceitful. It was another school choice option. While it obtained the requisite 51% of teacher support the families and teachers that wanted a charter decided that without a super majority the changes needed to put a charter conversion into an existing program were to great. Instead as a new ideas grew and curriculum was explored in more depth the idea of creating a Core Knowledge Charter emerged. Common Core is not a "regimen", it is a goal. If you read NUSD's assessment of existing elementary schools some have said that the curriculum is not working for their students.
Teacher February 13, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Thanks NUSD for getting our schools involved with Common Core Standards. I am truly a believer in this curriculum.
Tina McMillan February 14, 2013 at 12:30 AM
Novato teachers understand that common core is a goal not a curriculum. I am not sure what you hope to attain by confusing the two. "Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade. In California, the State Board of Education decides on the standards for all students, from kindergarten through high school. Since 2010, 45 states have adopted the same standards for English and math. These standards are called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Having the same standards helps all students get a good education, even if they change schools or move to a different state. Teachers, parents, and education experts designed the standards to prepare students for success in college and the workplace." http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc/
Tina McMillan February 17, 2013 at 01:14 AM
This link takes you to the state website: http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc/index.asp This link is to a document that describes the new standards for English Language Arts: http://www.scoe.net/castandards/agenda/2010/ela_ccs_recommendations.pdf California’s Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects This link describes the new standards for Math: http://www.scoe.net/castandards/agenda/2010/ela_ccs_recommendations.pdf Parents’ Guide to Student Success http://pta.org/files/2012_NPTA_PG-Kindergarten.pdf Common Core State Standards: Shifts for Students and Parents: http://engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/shifts-for-students-and-parents.pdf This is a state website and it has downloads in English and Spanish providing parents and students with information by grade level that describes what will be learned by the end of each grade level. Here are examples of shifts in ELA and in Math. "6 Shifts in ELA/Literacy Read as much non fiction as fiction. Learn about the world by reading Read more challenging material closely. Discuss reading using evidence. Write non-fiction using evidence. Increase academic vocabulary." 6 Shifts in Mathematics Focus: learn more about fewer, key topics. Build skills within and across grades. Develop speed and accuracy. Really know it, Really do it. Use it in the real world. Think fast AND solve problems.
Tina McMillan February 17, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Taking on common core state standards is a huge step toward curriculum reform. It speaks to failed policies that did not address the importance of curriculum in learning. To be successful schools must move from a skills based approach to a content based approach. Does having a larger vocabulary matter? Maybe it does... Thoughts on Education Policy Tuesday, October 9, 2012 It's All About Vocabulary? "The edusphere is abuzz about this NY Times piece on early vocabulary growth that ran over the weekend. Though the piece focuses on the current controversy surrounding test-based admissions to the top high schools in NYC, it's mostly based on the famous Hart and Risley book in which the authors conclude that children from families on welfare hear 32 million fewer words and 560,000 fewer encouragements than children of professional families between birth and age 4 -- and that these differences lead to subsequent differences in vocabulary and achievement." http://www.edpolicythoughts.com/2012/10/its-all-about-vocabulary.html Over and over again we are seeing examples of inequities in education being based not in poverty of resources but impoverished language development. If we want all students to succeed we must enrich spoken language to develop reading comprehension. ED Hirsch says, ""there is strong evidence that increasing the general knowledge and vocabulary of a child before age six is the single highest correlate with later success".
K8Teacher February 26, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Announced in 2009, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, is the latest development in what is now a 20-year trend in which states are being held to standards-based mandatory tests of student achievement. The initiative's purpose is to "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them." The standards are supposed to be relevant to the real world, reflect the knowledge and skills that students need for success in college and careers, and place them in a position in which they can compete in a global economy. Some supportive funding is coming from the governors and state schools chiefs, with additional support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and others.
K8Teacher February 26, 2013 at 03:00 PM
These new Standards were developed by states and for states; built upon strengths and lessons learned in states and the experiences of teachers, content experts, and leading thinkers; and feedback from the general public. They were informed by other top performing countries, and grounded in research and evidence. The CCSS were developed for English-language arts and mathematics, kindergarten through twelfth grade.
Tina McMillan February 26, 2013 at 05:41 PM
The Skills Stranglehold by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. February 21st, 2013 http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2013/02/21/the-skills-stranglehold/ "It’s not like it wasn’t obvious already, but today’s Metlife Survey of the American Teacher confirms that the nation’s teachers are demoralized. How could it be otherwise, with pressure to build the Common Core plane while flying it and also facing new evaluation and accountability requirements? I don’t want to brush off any of these very real problems, but I do want to suggest that they are not the heart of the matter. Fundamentally, the problem educators face is freeing themselves from the skills stranglehold. It is preventing them from understanding the Common Core standards, preventing them from meeting their own goals as professionals, and preventing them from closing achievement gaps between poor and privileged students. We see evidence of it everywhere, especially in the MetLife survey. Nine in ten teachers and principals say they are knowledgeable about the Common Core standards, and a majority of teachers say they are already using them a great deal. At the same time, teachers, especially in later grades, are not all that confident about the effect the Common Core will have." The report states (p. 65): Preparing Students for College and Careers A Survey of Teachers, Students, Parents and Fortune 1000 Executives http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED519278.pdf

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