New academic standards will be adopted at King beginning school year 2013–14. King, along with all schools throughout California, will be joining 45 other states in adopting new teaching and learning standards called “Common Core Curriculum.” Learn more at these links:
The Council of the Great City Schools has posted these and other resources to help communicate the CCSS to parents on their Common Core Works website, http://www.commoncoreworks.
Three-Minute Video Explaining the Common Core State Standards
King to Adopt New Standards and Testing System
By Nina Price, 8th Grader, originally published in the King Cobra student newspaper in Spring, 2013
In the next two years 44 states, including California, are adopting new and improved state standards which will flip the current curriculum of some subjects upside down. Major changes to the content of math and English classes will be put in place at King starting next year.
States see these new standards as a way to break away from the teaching methods used when George W. Bush “No Child Left Behind” was implemented in 2002. Most educators saw these ideas which centered around testing as a huge misstep. For the most part, they affected the math curriculum, forcing teachers to introduce material at a racing pace with scarcely any time to let the subject areas soak in.
“I’m really excited that for the first time in a long time (students might) wrestle with a math problem for three days instead of (getting taught) something new every single day,” said Principal Janet Levenson.
The math program will have fewer standards to reach, which Ms. Levenson believes will be an advantage. She said that instead of learning many subjects in a shallow manner, students will be able to go more in depth with fewer topics.
For students who have not yet taken Algebra 1, the problems they will be struggling with may not be what they expect. The new math content will be made up of several integrated subjects — a concoction called Common Core 6. It will consist of primarily algebra and geometry but will also include more advanced high school subjects like statistics.
Algebra 1 teacher Leah Alcala is concerned that teaching unfamiliar subjects might be a difficult transition for her and her fellow teachers. However, she still believes that the new curriculum has its benefits.
“It presents content at an appropriate time,” she said. “Kids forget algebra by the time they reach Algebra 2.” As the standards are now, with Pre-Algebra coming first in seventh grade, then Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2, etc., there have been several problems.
On top of students forgetting the algebra they learned in eighth grade, Ms. Alcala believes that algebra and geometry go hand-in-hand. She claims a barrier has been built between the subjects by teaching them separately. The combined subjects will not only fix both issues, but make for a seamless math program throughout middle and high school. However, math isn’t the only subject that’s seeing some changes. English — while not nearly as extreme — is going to adopt an altered curriculum.
The new standards will mainly focus on reading non-fiction. Currently, English classes use fictional books to introduce themes and analysis as well as to connect the class to subjects in history. Reading non-fiction will not only accomplish these goals, but introduce a new way to do research which, according to eighth grade humanities teacher Steven Conley, is one of the most important abilities a student should possess before entering high school.
Not only will all of these new standards be coming, but so will a whole new standardized testing system. SBAC testing, or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, will replace the end of the year STAR tests beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
This new system being solely online may very well be the smallest of the changes from the STAR testing.
The typical bubble sheet test that King students have been using since second grade are going away – and so are the A, B, C, and D answers. The new system is not multiple choice. There are various question types ranging from moving around solutions to their correct equation, to explaining your answer, to bubbling in several yes or no answers.
“I much prefer to have a student justify their thinking because it tells me more as a teacher about what they understand,” science teacher Akemi Hamai said. “Hopefully the new system will really allow kids to show what they know.”
The tests will also be “adaptive,” meaning they adjust question difficulty as you move through the test.
“If you’re starting to miss questions, it gives you more easy ones and tries to understand what it is i exactly that you do and don’t know.” Ms. Levenson said. This will give a more accurate understanding of what areas students struggle in so teachers can focus more on their blind spots.
She continued to explain that there is a bank of around 400,000 questions that are selected as you move through the test.
“It’s not like these are the sixth grade tests, seventh grade tests, and eighth grade tests, like they do it now, but all the questions are there. The grade levels blur a little bit more.”
So far, no problems have become prominently visible to the King Staff. However, one big worry is the lack of technology.
Currently, each class has four to five desktop computers used for Accelerated Reader tests, checking grades, and a few other uses. If the tests are going to be online only, it will become a matter of having enough computers for over 900 students to test at the same time.
Ms. Levenson believes that if the school can’t acquire enough computers by 2014 the test may have to remain on paper, which will take away the adaptive features of the tests.
No matter when the testing system comes, it’s up to the teachers to teach the students what they need to learn.
“First, we have to make the curriculum strong and make sure the teachers know how to teach it.
Then, we introduce the new testing system,” said Ms. Alcala.