Like it or not, California is embarking on a significant change in how are children are taught.
Teacher training is taking place in advance of Common Core’s official launch in California, set for the 2014-15 school year. The first round of assessment tests based on the new standards will be administered in spring 2015.
The state adopted Common Core during the Schwarzenegger administration, so this is not particularly news. But we’re getting close to implementation, and people are getting concerned about what it all means.
That’s understandable. That’s also why it’s important for people to get all the information they can about Common Core.
We’re fortunate in that there are people out there who are working to make that happen, both at the community level and at the school level.
I had the pleasure to moderate a town hall panel discussion Wednesday on Common Core in Vacaville.
Organizers had everything lined up and ready to go, right down to the format, which included about 30 minutes of opening remarks by the panelists, followed by about 30 minutes of panel discussion, then about 30 minutes of questions from the audience before brief closing remarks.
No worries. Except that the audience was having no part of it.
They peppered the panelists with questions as they spoke during the panel discussion portion of the event. It was clear to me pretty quickly that this would continue. It was equally clear to me that the panelists were up for a change – so change it we did.
That meant a bit more than an hour of a rolling panel discussion with direct interaction from and with the audience. It may not have been pretty (I happen to prefer this type of interaction), but in the end the panelists touched on the vast majority of the points organizers sought to address from the outset.
I received a very nice email the next day from Colleen Britton, who took the lead in organizing the event. She mentioned the challenge of dealing with what she described as a “sometimes overly eager audience.”
I’m happy she was happy, since things did not go as planned.
It’s too bad there wasn’t a representative from the state superintendent of public instruction’s office, or from the California Department of Education. Both were invited. They’re the ones who could have addressed a great many of the questions posed by audience members.
For that matter, a representative from the Solano County Office of Education could have answered questions specific to preparations that are taking place here at home – and there are preparations here in Solano County.
Alas, they, too, declined.
The Fairfield-Suisun School District has scheduled a special meeting Monday to discuss the Common Core.
District officials recommend that community members watch a video that’s just shy of an hour in length in preparation for the meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. in Board Room No. 108 in the district office, 2490 Hilborn Road in Fairfield. It’s scheduled to end at 7 p.m.
What we’re experiencing is a generational shift in the way our children are taught. It’s worth an hour of your time to watch the video, and another two hours of your time to hear from local school officials.
If we’re informed about the changes, we can make informed recommendations to our elected leaders.
I know a few experienced teachers. I asked them about Common Core. They’ve lived through standards changes before, and this is no different.
Some were excited. Others had some misgivings about specific areas of the standards but thought they could be worked out. Bottom line: They said to give them clear standards, a well-crafted curriculum and the time and resources they need – and then get out of the way and let them work.
No muss, no fuss.
Yes, this will be a difficult transition for all those involved, from the schools to the homes of children at all grade levels. But, as was the case with the last major educational shift to No Child Left Behind, educators will work the kinks out.
If those kinks prove too large to overcome, the whole thing – or at least the offending portions of it – will get tossed for something better. That’s just how these things work.
My greatest hope is that if the bottom does fall out of Common Core, as some are concerned it will, that we don’t lose a generation of children along the way.
That would be the worst possible outcome. That’s why we all need to get up to speed on Common Core.
Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.