Friday, March 08, 2013


By Kimberly Beltran | SI&A Cabinet Report –

Wednesday, March 06, 2013  ::  A key legislative panel undertook Wednesday its first look at the challenges the state faces in bringing the new common core curriculum standards into California classrooms. And, committee members expressed a lot of doubt the transition can be accomplished by the fall of 2014.

“I know I sound skeptical – because I am,” said Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee. “It’s not the standards themselves and the direction we want to go. It’s just our ability in the next year and a half to make sure that the districts are prepared to actually deliver that high quality curriculum.”

The hearing, first of the year by a legislative oversight committee on common core implementation, focused on the steps that still must be taken to provide students instructional materials aligned to the new curriculum goals, train teachers and access technology that will be needed to administer the new testing.

State schools chief Tom Torlakson provided the Legislature a detailed transition plan in January aimed at beginning the first testing tied to the common core by the spring of 2015.

Although the hearing was organized as a fact finding mission, Buchanan, as well as other committee members, seemed dazed by the challenges.

“So you’ve got the end of this year and one more year and then you’re going to start testing kids,” she said at one point. “I just feel like, with the public, are we really being honest?”

One key issue that the panel focused on was ensuring teachers are properly prepared to instruct in the new content goals.

“School districts now, many of them, don’t even have the three days of in-service they had at the beginning of the recession,” said Buchanan. “Some of them under this proposed formula won’t even get up to their pre-recession levels of funding until after 2020. And we say, well, if they want to they can redirect funds here or there – they may want to do a whole lot but the reality is they’re probably not going to be able to do it.”

While no one has yet put a price tag on how much will be needed for the professional development piece of common core implementation, it has been estimated that training, along with new instructional materials and needed technology, will be in the billions of dollars.

It has been suggested that lawmakers consider at least a one-time allocation of funds to districts specifically for common core and assessments.

Members of the panel were also concerned about the lengthy testing window CDE plans to allow for the new assessments, and they wondered if and how the assessments indicate a student’s readiness to enter the workforce.

CDE has said it plans to give schools a 12-week period to assess students simply because most don’t have enough computers for each pupil to be tested all at once. Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford education professor and chair of the Teacher Credentialing Commission, said that in California, the student-to-computer ratio is five-to-one.

This is a concern, panel members said, because students will not have had an entire year of instruction if testing must begin three to four months prior to year’s end.

Darling-Hammond also said, however, that it is likely most districts will need much fewer than 12 weeks – maybe as little as four – to assess all of their students.

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