SRVUSD gets ready for new teaching standards

Common Core Standards will ask students to know more about fewer subjects

Students in the San Ramon Valley can look forward to having to learn less, but think more deeply about what they learn as the school district moves to new standards for learning.

Common Core State Standards will be implemented nationwide in the coming school year. In all, 45 states have opted in -- not counting Minnesota, which will use English language arts but not math Common Core standards. The goal is to make the U.S. more competitive with other countries and level the playing field, so that all students will be equally educated and college ready when they graduate high school.

Toni Taylor, director of educational services for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, said the district is trying to get ready for the new standards.

"We are in the process of training our entire teaching staff on the new Common Core State Standards and will make every effort to prepare our students for the initial assessments in 2014-2015," Taylor said. "SRVUSD was fortunate to be selected as a pilot district this year for the new assessments. Bollinger Elementary School, Country Club Elementary, Golden View Elementary, Montair Elementary, Montevideo Elementary, Sycamore Elementary, Tassajara Elementary, Vista Grande Elementary and Windemere Ranch Middle School all participated in a scientific pilot."

One of the motivating factors behind creating the standards is the number of graduates who need remedial English or math classes in college before they can move into a degree program.

Common Core is meant to be a "staircase to readiness," meaning the creators looked at what incoming college students would need to know when they graduated, then looked at what they'd need to know in eleventh grade to get them ready for twelfth and so on, down to the kindergarten level.

Taylor said it's too soon to tell how the district will do in standardized testing.

"If our students are taking only the federally required assessments -- English language arts and math, eighth grade science and tenth grade life science -- we do not know how the academic performance index will be calculated," Taylor said. "However, it only stands to reason that the longer students are exposed to the strategies embedded in the CCSS, the better prepared they will be for the types of performance tasks they will complete on the SBAC assessments."

Students will be asked to do more non-fiction reading to prepare them to read technical work, which is required in college and in many jobs.

There will be fewer standards than what's currently required, but students will be asked have a greater depth of knowledge.

For example, a student might be asked to describe three characteristics of metamorphic rocks, which requires simple recall. The student may next be asked to describe the difference between metamorphic and igneous rocks, which requires a higher level of thinking to determine the differences in the two rock types. Moving to the next level, strategic thinking, the student may be asked to describe a model that you might use to represent the relationships that exist within the rock cycle, which requires a deep understanding of the rock cycle and figuring out how best to represent it.

While teachers in many districts have balked at some of the new requirements, Taylor said teachers in the San Ramon Valley are embracing the changes.

"Most of our teachers are very excited to see the change that the Common Core State Standards bring," she said. "They see this as an opportunity to engage their students in higher level critical thinking, problem-solving and project-based learning."

Computer-based tests will eventually replace STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) tests, but for now -- unless new legislation proposed by Torlakson passes -- students could have to take both the STAR test and the Common Core test.

For now, Taylor said, the California High School Exit Exam will still be required because it's part of the federally mandated testing requirement under No Child Left Behind.

However, she said, "There is ongoing conversation at the state level about possible replacements in the future."


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Posted by Curious
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 28, 2013 at 6:06 am

It will likely be yet another failed experiment...just like the "whole language" fiasco...

God help our children.

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Posted by Bekki
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2013 at 6:21 am

I just moved to Kentucky after spending 20 years in California. Kentucky has fully implemented Common Core Standards this year. It is wonderful. My only wish, is that my kids could have experienced this curriculum earlier in their school careers!

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Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Mar 28, 2013 at 9:59 am

Some of the aspects of the new Common Core standards that are described above sound positive, although I have to confess a general skepticism when I read about "learning less, but with deeper understanding", and about "leveling the playing field". There are two ways to level a "playing field" - one being to fill in the low spots, the other being to lop off the high spots. And sometimes it's difficult to do one without doing the other...

Our district has had good availability of honors and AP courses for students who want to challenge themselves (applies to HS-level, obviously), and hopefully that is maintained while working to improve education for all students.

I applaud the Danville Express for providing education-related news, as it isn't always covered that well in our local newspapers (especially for district-specific items).

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Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Danville
on Mar 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm

It’s just a way for the teachers to become even lazier and teach less. All these changes over the years have just been to make teaching easier, but not to improve the quality education our students receive. Forty plus years ago the system worked very well and the fact that people keep trying to re-invent the wheel is just disgusting. The education system of years ago gave us people like Gates, Ellison, Jobs, Packard, Hewlett, etc. We can now thank the system for people like Zuckerberg, Dorsay, Anderson, etc. We give amazing kudos to people who made it even easier to be a hermit, not add to society, never leave your home and be behind a computer screen all day. Really?! What a great teaching system we have!!!

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Posted by Stacy
a resident of John Baldwin Elementary School
on Mar 29, 2013 at 8:21 pm

It is really hard to read these uniformed comments. People need to read, learn, ask to understand before they comment about something they clearly know nothing about.

I am a mom who has read, attended meetings, and asked for accurate information on common core. It's not about being hermit, never leaving your home....or any other of the ridiculous comments... It is about getting rid of multiple choice, moving towards open ended complex questions and answers that provoke kids to broaden their depth of knowledge and connections to real life thinking strategies. Many are already teaching this way, it gives tools to those who are not and aligning the standards to meet these much needed skills. It is going to be great for our kids!

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Posted by Douglas
a resident of Blackhawk
on Mar 30, 2013 at 2:12 pm

@ Stacy

Do you have any children in middle or high school? Just wait until you have experience there and then try to tell me that this common core is a good idea.

You don't notice the bad teaching and lack of teaching until your kids are out of the warm fuzzy elementary schools. Just wait until your kids come home filling you in on how their teachers are too busy checking their e-mail and facebook pages to actually teach in the class room. This new "standard" will just give the teachers even more time to do their personal business during school time. Wake up people! Pull you head out of the sand!

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Danville
on Mar 30, 2013 at 8:57 pm

My daughter graduated from SRVHS two years ago and my son will graduate from MVHS this year. Both have had some teachers who were excellent, and some who were pretty bad, which I would consider pretty typical. Neither has had the experience of a teacher distracted by social media during the class, and I have found the majority of the teachers to be committed to their students and anything but lazy, as well as grossly underpaid.

As for the notion of education being superior 40+ years ago, I could not disagree more. I was in public school 40 years ago, and I am so grateful that my kids haven't had to experience the often worthless instruction of that period.

I've noticed time and again on these forums that teachers get a bad rap. What a shame.

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Posted by Realist
a resident of Danville
on Mar 30, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Let's get real! Teachers don't teach. California is ranked among the worst in education and the teachers are among the highest paid. How does that work out? Where is the pay for performance? Where is the accountability? Why don't parents have a louder voice and more rights to control what is taught to our children?

They're our babies and our joy. I know what's best for my boys and teaching from a tired curriculum (over 50 years old!) isn't educating them. The material being taught is subpar at best! Teaching them we're all the same is insane! We're not all the same! We're EQUAL, but NOT the SAME. We are individuals and that needs to be embraced in schools. Unfortunately, our children's voices are squashed the moment they get in line and step inside the classroom. They are taught to conform and to do as they're told.

We are in a global market now and we need to be allowed to take control of our children's education without fear of government retaliation. The government and their unions don't educate our kids; we do! It's time to realize that the government doesn't give us our rights. We are born with them and we should be allowed to control what our children are taught. We should have a voice in the curriculum and our suggestions should be followed up on. We're paying for their experience, skills, performance, and intelligence. We're their customers and our children are supposed to be the benefactors. How did this go so wrong?

When I graduated high school in 1997, I had no skills and no way of making money. School is supposed to teach you what you need to succeed in life and make money, but it doesn't. It's just a tired waste of time and I want better.. and our children deserve better.

Below are a list of URLs that contribute to proof of my argument.

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

Oh! And one more article to sleep on tonight:

Web Link

Sleep tight!

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Posted by Dave
a resident of Danville
on Mar 30, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Don't we want our children to be able to think and understand more deeply? To do the kind of more complex and layered analysis that the working world (and good citizenship) requires? Or are we satisfied with broad, but superficial learning of the sort that allows you to answer lots of questions on "Jeopardy," but not understand the meaning of any of those subjects?

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Posted by Nancy
a resident of Danville
on Apr 1, 2013 at 8:06 am

I am very curious why parents are not worried with regards to all the "new" psychological testing and data files the public school children will be subject to thanks to the "common core". Get educated and actually read the mandate from the federal government. This is written and anyone can read for themselves. A young teacher with NO mental health training will be making predictions regarding your child starting at a young age. All the information will be stored, test scores, health issues, learning problems, family issues, etc. WHY???? Will this information be used one day to establish insurance rates? Will this information be used by a business to find employees? Who will have access to this information when your child is 18? Wake up and protect your children!!!!!

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Posted by rufous
a resident of Alamo
on Apr 1, 2013 at 9:39 am

The only thing that separates the better students from the worst students is parental involvement. Schools thrive best when managed at the local level, not state level. The new standards do nothing to address the real issues. Now there will be no "wrong" answers. Thank you Joan Buchanan.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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