Torlakson Announces New Online Tools for Educators


State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces New Online Tools for Educators

SACRAMENTO—Educators across California, from those who work with the state’s youngest learners to those in high school classrooms, can use several free online professional development tools created by the California Department of Education (CDE), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said today.

The CDE is continuing to develop these resources as the state asks its educators to re-emphasize college and career readiness for their students. A series of Professional Learning Modules (PLMs), for example, is designed to help teachers implement the Common Core State Standards. Each of the 13 modules focuses on a single subject, such as Getting Started with the California English Language Development Standards, which provides guidance to teachers so they can provide a world-class education for English learners. The PLMs were developed in collaboration with county offices of education, the state subject-matter projects, and WestEd and are available on the Brokers of Expertise Web site at no cost.

“We are working to support our teachers with professional learning as they work to support their students with lessons and activities that prepare them for the real world,” Torlakson said. “From the earliest years through graduation, California’s children and teachers deserve to have the tools they need to succeed.”

The modules were intended to be used by educators independently, in collaborative groups, or as a face-to-face presentation. For instance, the online professional learning resource for English Language Development (ELD) Standards offers self-guided or face-to-face training for educators in how to use the ELD standards in tandem with the Common Core State Standards. Other modules include CCSS Mathematics: K-8 Learning ProgressionsCCSS: Literacy in Science, and also an Overview of the Common Core State Standards for California Educators.

Torlakson also unveiled a new Web-based professional development resource called the Early Childhood Educator Competencies Self-Assessment Toolkit (ECE CompSAT) to help hone the skills of early childhood teachers, aides, and directors of programs serving very young children.

“By investing in our children earlier in life, we reap the benefits of a better educated, more productive workforce, and a healthier state in the future,” Torlakson said. “We do that by also investing in early childhood educators to ensure they have the skills and the support they need to prepare our children for school.”

Early childhood educators can use the free ECE CompSAT to consider their everyday practices, examine what they can do, and what skills they should develop. The ECE CompSAT is an interactive Web site with 100 pages of information and nine hours of streaming video that viewers can use to assess their skills in multiple areas. The ECE CompSAT is based on a 2011 CDE publication found on the California Early Childhood Educator Competencies Web page.

The ECE CompSAT was a project of the Governor’s State Advisory Council for Early Learning and Care. This project was completed with the help of California State University-Fresno, WestEd, and the CDE’s Early Education and Support Division and Technology Services Division. It was also a component of CDE’s award of a federal Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge grant to develop and support systems to rate and improve early learning programs so parents can make the best choices for their children.

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College Board Partners Wow the Crowd at Leadership Events

college board

 College Board presenters Douglas Waugh, David Jones, and Ana Galindo Shapiro.

This fall we were honored to have College Board, a California GEAR UP strategic partner, provide demonstration lessons at all of our Principal and Leadership Team events that took place across the state. These events focus on the use of our SSAR (school self assessment rubric) to look at school-wide perceptions and provides opportunities to learn about successes and challenges from other school teams. With the looming implementation of Common Core State Standards, schools have requested additional information and support, to which we responded with the College Board CCSS Demonstration Lesson.

One of the presenters, Ana Galindo Shapiro, was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about why she believes in this work so much.

How did you start working with schools and why are you passionate about it?

I started working with the College Board as an AP US History teacher. I remember attending my first AP Summer Institute, during which we participated in a Socratic Seminar using the Board’s recently revised Equity and Access Statement. I was working with students who broke the mold of what an AP student “looks like” for some. Many were English Learners, read below grade level, or were the first in their families to have their sights set on college- but they were so dedicated to challenging themselves. I knew that I was doing important work by believing in my students and supporting them through really rigorous learning experiences. I’m still passionate about that work today; I just have a different audience!

What do you think the most important thing teachers can be collaborating on right now to prepare for the implementation of common core and associated assessments?

I think teachers have an opportunity through the Common Core to teach students to think critically and creatively, something our state assessments have perhaps geared us away from in the past decade. It is really powerful to think that we’ll have assessments that actually honor students building solid arguments, explaining their reasoning, and focusing on depth over a breadth of topics is really exciting.

What was your experience in middle school like and how were you influenced to go to college?

I was an average student in middle school and high school. My father is an educator, and college was not really optional for me; it was a question of where to go (which was really exciting for both of us to explore). I didn’t really find my thrill of learning until college, when I think I was challenged for the first time. I loved being learning history in a historical place, surrounded by really curious young people.

 What do you think are some of the most important factors that will contribute to preparation for and student success in college?

I know that student peer influence is really strong for student success in college. Just like in middle and high school, it is really important for kids to feel connected to their peers and the adults around them. I’ve been reading a lot about growth mindsets and “grit” and how predictive they are to student success, more so than academic or socio-economic factors. That’s inspiring because these are things schools can help to cultivate in young people.

What are some of the most effective ways to create a college-going culture in our school community?

Young people need to “see” themselves going to college. Experiences like college trips, hosted by students who have similar backgrounds, or having tutors on campus that students can relate to is helpful. Adults need to also “see” their students as college bound. This goes beyond speaking it, it requires teachers to understand that there’s a lot of support and sometimes tough love that kids need to make it into and through college. Parents need to “see” their students heading to college by being exposed to college processes and encouraging their children to stick to it when things get difficult.

Tell us about some of the College Board initiatives you are most proud of.

I am most proud of SpringBoard, because ours is a program explicitly designed to support all teachers and students in getting ready for college.

When did you first start working with GEAR UP and why is the work important?

I first started working with GEAR UP as a high school principal. Two of our graduating cohorts were supported since 6th grade with additional staff, materials, and experiences. All students should benefit from these additional resources, designed to put them on a solid path to college. Even though two classes had the direct benefit from GEAR UP, the entire school culture was shaped by work.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love being able to work with educators across school, district, and state lines to learn from their challenges and insights.

 Anything else you would like to share with the GEAR UP Community?

I really enjoyed our time together and hope we’ll see each other again soon!


Teacher Trainings Kick Off California’s Common Core Summer

Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, who wants to hold off on some standardized tests.

SACRAMENTO—With the state budget setting aside $1.25 billion to implement new standards in California’s public schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson kicked off California’s Common Core Summer with a daylong seminar to help teachers instill deeper learning of mathematics in their students.

“For teachers, this is California’s Common Core Summer. They’ve just finished their own school year, but they’re already back in class—because they see the opportunity Common Core presents to prepare students for a successful future,” Torlakson said. “They’re setting aside the one-size-fits all curriculum, recycling the `drill and kill’ worksheets, and dumping the multiple choice `bubble tests’—replacing them with Common Core mathematics, which focuses on a few key areas at each grade level so students learn the skills they really need, step by step.”

At Torlakson’s direction, the California Department of Education (CDE) convened the first of two showcases on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to help teachers learn how to bring the new standards to life. Today’s event, which brought together 150 educators from across the state, was focused on mathematics. A showcase focused on English-language arts instruction is scheduled for later in June.

“The focus today is on teachers—because the success of Common Core depends on great teaching,” Torlakson said. “We’re remodeling our education system, but the standards are just the blueprints. The real work, the heavy lifting of this remodeling project, will be done by teachers. That’s why we’ve brought some of California’s best teachers here, to learn from each other about putting the Common Core to work in the classroom.”

Brad Trimble, Whole School Services Coach for California GEAR UP was in attendance and gave this report:

     The opening session was lead by Phil Gonsalves who works as Director of the Math Coaching Consortium for the West Contra Costa Unified School District.  His presentation was very dynamic and clearly resonated with the 150 math teachers and administrators in the auditorium.
     His motto was, “Less is more with Common Core.”  This echoed Superintendent Torlakson’s sentiment that Common Core is designed to change school curriculum from “going an inch deep and a mile wide” into curriculum which goes “a mile deep and an inch wide”.  The presentation conducted by Gonsalves was completely student-centered.  He challenged teachers to “teach math in a way that makes sense for students” and to throw out traditional and confusing terminology and practices that work against student learning outcomes.  The session included Gonsalves showing the audience how to complete math problems is at least four different ways.
     Almost everyone in the room were experiencing “aha” moments throughout Phil’s presentation as he worked to tear apart the traditional thought patterns that have hindered math instruction and ultimately student learning.  For example, Phil shared an experience when a math teacher in his district had one of these “aha” moments during a presentation at her school.  She shared with Phil that she really liked the method in which he solved an a particular math problem.  Phil’s response to her was “So what?!?”.  He explained that teachers must move away from the types of instruction and practices that “they like” and engage in those that work best for the students and facilitate learning.  Phil concluded his presentation by challenging math teachers to use side-by-side comparisons that show students multiple ways to solve problems and help them understand the structure of mathematics.  He concluded by acknowledging that teachers who aren’t showing their kids how to think about math in different ways will be at a major disadvantage during Common Core assessment.
     The afternoon consisted of breakout sessions lead by various K-12 teachers and administrators which were grouped by elementary, middle, and high school grades.  These sessions covered topics such as student collaboration, critical thinking strategies, changes for teacher professional development, math modeling and content delivery.
     Overall, the event was well received by participants and very well orchestrated.

Torlakson noted that school districts and county offices of education throughout the state were sponsoring similar training sessions as California makes the transition to the new standards.

The Math CCSS Showcase allowed participants to learn how to integrate CCSS math content standards and practices, engage in activities that foster knowledge and the art of teaching, and share strategies for increasing student engagement.

The English-Language Arts CCSS Showcase is set for June 24, 2013, also in Sacramento. Participants will learn how to build their knowledge through content-rich information; develop strategies for reading, writing, and speaking that are grounded in text evidence; and learn how to interpret and teach complex reading materials.

Participants at both events were to also have opportunities to learn how to incorporate elementary or secondary instructional strategies; hear about strategies to support English learners, students with disabilities, and struggling readers; and see techniques that support college and career readiness.

The showcases are the latest in a series of steps taken by the CDE and the State Board of Education (SBE) to prepare educators for the transition to CCSS:

  • August 2010: The SBE adopted the CCSS to provide a practical way to prepare children for the challenges of a constantly changing world—by learning step-by-step the real-world skills they need for college and careers.
  • December 2011: The CDE released a publication called A Look at Kindergarten Through Grade Six in California Public Schools: Transitioning to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics to provide information for educators on curriculum planning and professional development in the CCSS.
  • March 2012: Torlakson and SBE President Mike Kirst presented the CCSS Systems Implementation Plan for California to the executive and legislative branches of state government.
  • September 2012: The CDE made available the first in a series of professional learning modules designed to deepen educator understanding of the CCSS.
  • November 2012: The SBE adopted new English Language Development Standards aligned to the CCSS designed to help English learners build critical knowledge and skills.
  • November 2012: The SBE also approved the first supplemental instructional materials aligned to the CCSS.
  • January 2013: The SBE approved sweeping updates to the state’s career technical education standards that reflect rapid changes in technology and set higher academic goals aligned to the CCSS.
  • January 2013: Torlakson presented Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System to the Legislature.
  • March 2013: The CDE joined the national Partnership for 21st Century Skills network of 18 states, which helps provide additional resources to implement the CCSS.
  • March 2013: The SBE approved anchor standards for English-language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects, which completed California’s adoption of the CCSS.
  • March 2013: The CDE, in collaboration with the San Diego County Office of Education, provided the Spanish translation of the CCSS for English-language arts.
  • April 2013: The CDE opened public comment on the draft framework for the CCSS for math. This 60-day public review closes today; a subsequent review period will open in July. The SBE may take final action in the fall.
  • April 2013: The CDE hosted another CCSS showcase for educators in math, English-language arts, and literacy in history/social science, science, and technical subjects.
  • May 2013: The SBE approved the timeline to adopt instructional materials aligned to the CCSS for math.

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The California Department of Education (CDE) is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. For more information, please visit or by mobile device at You may also follow Superintendent Torlakson on Twitter at

Early Look At Smarter Balanced Assessments Now Online


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson encouraged students, educators, and parents to try out the Smarter Balanced Practice Tests launched today to familiarize themselves and the public with the new generation of computer-based assessments students will take starting in the 2014-15 school year. Just approved today, Assembly Bill 484 would limit the use of outdated Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) system tests for the 2013-14 school year and begin statewide use of new assessments aligned to California’s Common Core State Standards in 2014-15. The bill is based on recommendations for transitioning California to a future assessment system.

“These practice tests give teachers, students, and parents a glimpse into understanding the skills and abilities our children will need to do well on test day and in preparation for college and career,” Torlakson said. “This marks another step forward in the effort help schools prepare to replace outdated assessments with tests that gauge the kind of critical thinking and deeper learning that comes with a world-class education.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) placed online for public access the set of practice tests for grades three through eight and grade eleven. For each grade, practice tests will be available in both English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics.

The practice tests are available on the California Department of Education Smarter Balanced Practice Tests Web page.

The practice tests include test questions with the same features that students will experience in 2014-15, when the tests are scheduled to be given to more than 19 million of the nation’s public K-12 students, including California’s students. Smarter Balanced assessment items and performance tasks were written and reviewed in collaboration with K-12 teachers and higher education faculty and aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Item types include:

  • Selected response, the more traditional multiple choice, true-false, and yes-no questions;
  • Constructed response, in which students produce a response by using the keyboard or dragging a mouse;
  • Technology enhanced, where items use animations in presenting the information or require students to manipulate materials on the screen to either understand the question at a deeper level in a simulation situation or to respond to an item, such as through drag and drop; and
  • Performance tasks, scenario-based questions focusing on a single real-world circumstance or situation, requiring students to do deeper thinking to draw upon connections across various subjects and ask them to apply their skills to solve more complex problems.

There are 16 English Language Arts tasks in the sample, such as the rewriting of text excerpts to correct errors or identify extraneous information, highlighting and writing of text to support conclusions or prove a point, and reading of text to answer multiple choice questions. Two ELA questions show a video and ask the students to answer a question using details shown in the movie clip to support their answers. Where writing is required, the question includes a textbox into which the student types an answer.

Mathematics has 25 samples, several of them with multi-part questions. These include animations in which students control the variables in the question being answered, and others where the student performs drag and drop activities. Some items include a small calculator on the screen to help the student with the equation. Others require the student to type in an explanation for how he or she solved the problem.

Online access to the practice tests will not require a unique username and password, so schools and districts can use them for teacher training as well as discussions with parents, policymakers, and other interested stakeholders.

Members of the public are also allowed access. There will be no immediate scoring of the tests, but scoring keys will be made available later in the year.

The release of the practice tests follows the administration of the Smarter Balanced Pilot Test, which was the first large-scale tryout of items and performance tasks. The Pilot Test was taken by more than one million students in Smarter Balanced member states from February through mid-May.

Many schools are encouraging teachers to take the practice tests to better understand the impact the assessments will have on instruction. California GEAR UP schools are integrating support for Common Core and Smarter Balanced into their PDAP for 2013-2014 school year. Let us know if you are taking the practice tests and what you think in the comments section.


Jefe estatal de escuelas anuncia versión en español de Common Core


SACRAMENTO—A medida que California se dirige hacia la implementación plena de las normas estatales Common Core, un esfuerzo por separado para traducir los estándares del estudio del idioma inglés al español ya ha sido completado, el Superintendente Estatal de Instrucción Pública Tom Torlakson anunció hoy.

“Common Core en Español” es un esfuerzo conjunto de la Oficina de Educación del Condado de San Diego, el Consejo de Jefes Estatales de Educación (CCSSO) y el Departamento de Educación de California (CDE).

“En esencia, Common Core consiste en garantizar que todos los niños, sin importar de dónde sean ni dónde vivan, reciban una educación de primera clase que sea consistente de escuela a escuela y se gradúen preparados para contribuir al futuro de nuestro estado y nuestro país”, dijo Torlakson, señalando que, en California, uno de cada cuatro niños va a la escuela necesitando aprender inglés. “La traducción de los estándares del estudio del idioma inglés al español es un buen paso para ofrecer a los maestros y las escuelas el apoyo que necesitan para alcanzar y educar a cada niño”.

Los Estándares Comunes Estatales, que cubren el estudio del idioma inglés y las matemáticas, proporcionarán una comprensión clara y consistente de lo que deben aprender los estudiantes, para que las escuelas y las familias sepan lo que tienen que hacer para ayudarlos. Este es un esfuerzo liderado por el estado para asegurar que todos los estudiantes se gradúen de escuelas públicas listos para el mundo profesional y la universidad. El liderazgo de California significa que 45 estados de la Unión Americana y tres territorios que han adoptado los estándares tendrán libre acceso a la traducción al español de los estándares del estudio del idioma inglés. Funcionarios también anticipan la traducción de los estándares de matemáticas.

El esfuerzo es coordinado por Silvia C. Dorta-Duque de Reyes del condado de San Diego, quien recibió recientemente un reconocimiento como “Administradora del Año” otorgado por la Asociación de California para la Educación Bilingüe (CABE).
Un grupo de educadores a nivel de distrito y académicos del idioma tradujeron las normas, incluyendo “amplificación lingüística” para garantizar que el nuevo documento vaya más allá de una traducción literal, para comunicar conceptos de manera efectiva.

El grupo presentó su trabajo inicial en una conferencia de CABE el año pasado, y las traducciones finales ya están disponibles por internet para que educadores y padres los utilicen de manera gratuita. Información adicional sobre los estándares estatales Common Core están disponibles en el Departmento de Educación de California visitando

“California está implementado estas normas como base para la renovación de nuestro sistema educativo”, dijo Torlakson. “Esta traducción es importante porque sienta las bases para la evaluación equitativa y el desarrollo curricular”.

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El Departamento de Educación de California (CDE) es un organismo estatal dirigido por el Superintendente Estatal de Instrucción Pública, Tom Torlakson. Para obtener más información, visite o por móvil  en También puede seguir al Superintendente Torlakson en Twitter y Facebook en y

California Adopts Math Standards with Local Decision Making


SACRAMENTO—The State Board of Education yesterday voted to modify the California Additions to the adopted Common Core State Standards for Mathematics(CCSSM).

The Board’s action will help the state continue its progress toward implementing the Common Core State Standards, and provides options for accelerating to higher mathematics in middle school while maintaining the requirement that all students pass Algebra I before graduating from high school.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who was required under Senate Bill 1200 to propose modifications that include basing Algebra I on the Common Core State Standards, praised the Board’s action.

“The Common Core—and common sense—calls for a students’ progress in mathematics to be based on their readiness to advance—not a timeline or a mandate from Sacramento,” Torlakson said. “Making this change now will help our schools make the transition to Common Core, and marks another step in our push to provide students the practical, real-world skills they need.”

California is part of a multistate consortium that developed the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English, which define what students should know at each grade level. Having a single, similar set of standards nationwide will help all students prepare for college or careers, even if they change schools or move to a different state. California adopted the CCSSM that included the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in June 2010.

The move rescinds action by the prior Board in 2010, which adopted standards that contained a unique Grade 8 Algebra I course inconsistent with the published Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.

Torlakson recommended the unique Grade 8 Algebra I course be replaced with Algebra I and Mathematics I courses based upon the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. He also recommended redundant standards in grades six and seven be eliminated. These changes clarify the mathematics standards for middle grades and provide the foundation for middle school courses, including algebra and higher mathematics courses in high school. Students must still pass Algebra I in order to graduate from high school.

Torlakson’s recommendations are presented in the Recommended Modifications to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics with California Additions and Model Courses for Higher Mathematics. The modifications were developed with the help of Mathematics Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and comments from two public hearings held in January 2013.

The CDE Press office will create a CCSSM publication and post it to the California Department of Education Web site. For more information about California’s implementation of the CCSSM, please visit the Department’s Common Core State Standards Implementation Web page.

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