Coffee Break: Understanding Common Core

September 26, 2013|By Kate Rogers
  • From left, Bill Landsiedel, Darlene Messinger, Sherine Smith, s Melinda Grace and Betsey Jenkins.
From left, Bill Landsiedel, Darlene Messinger, Sherine… (Handout )

Laguna Beach Unified School District Supt. Sherine Smith and other leaders from the district convened at Coffee Break's kickoff meeting Wednesday to discuss implementation of the newly adopted Common Core State Standards.

Part of a nationwide, state-driven initiative to update and standardize the curriculum for math and English in the 21st century, these standards shift the emphasis from memorization of content to a more fluid thinking style that integrates language and math across all disciplines.

The district's implementation of these standards spans three years, This is the second year of pilot-testing for teachers, who are receiving much support from their professional learning communities and other district initiatives. Full implementation is targeted for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Ron LaMotte, principal of Top of the World Elementary School, assured people that despite the buzz, these standards are "not that different." For example, the writing standards are designed to go beyond traditional literature analysis and train children to use different source materials and cite specific examples from each.


Chris Duddy, principal of El Morro Elementary, discussed the role assessments would play in the new standards. First, a "benchmark" assessment is given to gauge where kids are in terms of literacy or math fluency. As teaching units progress, "formative" assessments are given to provide feedback for teachers on how well students have mastered a particular concept.

Finally, "summative" assessments are given to see what students have mastered in total. It's Important to note that not all assessments are used for grading. Rather they are intended to provide guidance for teachers.

Importantly, historic STAR testing is currently in review at the state Legislature level. Obviously, the new curriculum wouldn't align with what STAR historically measures, so a drop in the scores is to be expected. This could become controversial in our district, which has been riding an upward trend in STAR scores across the board.

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