State Board Commends Higher Ed Common Core Approach

In an unprecedented action, the four systems of higher education announced their endorsement of Common Core standards and have engaged in a comprehensive, coordinated approach for implementation that links the K-12 system with higher education on standards, assessments and teacher training.

The leaders of the University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, and Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities outlined their endorsement of Common Core standards in a letter to the State Board of Education. The announcement is part of the California State Board of Education’s National Governors Association grant for K-12/higher education collaboration.

“This endorsement reinforces other significant actions by higher education to align standards and assessments with Common Core including major revisions to the PSAT and SAT, updates to the a-g requirements for the University of California and California State University, improvements to teacher preparation, and collaboration on the Early Assessment Program and Smarter Balanced assessments for 11th grade,” explained California State Board of Education president Mike Kirst.

“The implementation of the Common Core standards and aligned assessments has the potential to dramatically improve college readiness and help close the preparation gap that exists for California students,” wrote Janet Napolitano, Timothy White, Brice Harris and Kristen Soares. The system leaders note the “transforming promise of these new standards” as more students master them and more teachers, students and parents are given clear and consistent messages about college and career readiness.

The letter states that “Common Core standards provide teachers and districts a roadmap to developing courses that cultivate the deep understandings required for college preparation.  In concert with this transition, the a-g requirements for CSU and UC admission, specifically areas ‘b’ (English) and ‘c’ (Mathematics), have been updated to align with the Common Core standards and the message is being transmitted to schools, parents and students.”

The system leaders also highlight the Early Assessment Program and higher education’s participation in teams working on the performance standards for the Smarter Balanced 11th grade assessments. The “partnership California has built over the last 10 years to implement the Early Assessment Program has helped to define the national effort to measure college and career readiness in the 11th grade, and it places California in an optimal position to successfully transition to the new system of standards and assessments.”

“Collaborative efforts will help ensure that the tests measure standards that our K-12 and higher education systems all agree address appropriate expectations for the preparation of high school graduates who are ready to succeed…. These assessments align with our commitment to new learning outcomes to ensure our graduates are ready to succeed in an increasingly complex global environment,” the letter notes.

The link between K-12 and higher education starts with teacher preparation, according to Napolitano, White, Harris and Soares.  Accordingly, “higher education systems are aligning teacher preparation programs and content with the Common Core standards.”

More information about California’s implementation of Common Core standards can be found at


New Online Toolkit to Help Educators Explain Common Core



SACRAMENTO—Educators and school districts now have a new free toolkit to help them spread the word about how the Common Core State Standards are remodeling California’s education system to better prepare students for college and careers, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

“As students and teachers head back to school they will be experiencing exciting changes in California education, including a new way of teaching and learning through the Common Core,” Torlakson said. “Now educators have additional help in dispelling the mystery and concerns of families about this transition with a new communications toolkit created with the help of several major education groups in the state.”

Explaining Common Core to Californians: A Communications Toolkit” is an online resource created with the help of the California Department of Education, State Board of Education, Californians Dedicated to Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, California State PTA®, California School Boards Association, California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teaches AFT/AFL-CIO, Association of California School Administrators, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and the nonprofit FrameWorks.

The resource is a collection of research, recommendations, and sample communications designed to help educators increase their own and the public’s understanding of the kinds of instruction, testing, and support needed to fulfill the potential of the Common Core. For example, educators can download printable message cards that provide metaphors to help them explain Common Core, talking points to help them describe what Common Core does, frequently asked questions on challenging topics, tips on how to use social media, sample letters to parents, and a Common Core video.

Californians Dedicated to Education also will hold a series of Webinars to provide an overview of the Communications Toolkit and practical tips on how to use it with a special focus on back-to-school messaging. Click on the links below to register for the free Webinars. Advanced registration is required. For more information, contact Caitlin Lawrence-Toombs at or 510-528-1558:

The State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics in 2010. Standards define the knowledge, concepts, and skills students should acquire at each grade level. The new standards provide a practical way to prepare students for the challenges of a constantly changing world by helping them learn step-by-step the real world skills they need for college and careers. The Common Core provides all students, no matter where they live or where they were born, a world-class education that’s consistent from school to school so they will graduate ready to contribute to the state and nation. It also replaces the state’s outdated ways of learning with a clear focus on the key knowledge and skills students need while providing teachers the time to teach the standards well.

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The California Department of Education is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education Web site or by mobile device. You may also follow Superintendent Torlakson on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.


Can Schools Equitably Implement Common Core?

ed trust common core brief

(this is a repost from Ed Trust-West)

With Governor Brown’s announcement of an unprecedented $1.25 billion dollars to accelerate Common Core implementation, the Education Trust—West releases a new brief, The One Billion Dollar Question: How Can Districts and Schools Equitably Implement the Common Core? The brief is designed to be an easy-to-use primer for district, charter, county, and community leaders to assess local Common Core implementation efforts based on best practices nationally and in California.

The Common Core State Standards are comprised of rigorous academic standards which can, when implemented with sufficient supports, help us close persistent achievement gaps. All students must have access to the deeper learning expectations and experiences called out in the new standards. However, many students—English learners, students with learning disabilities and students struggling academically—require targeted supports to ensure their success.

The brief opens with a basic needs assessment consisting of a series of questions that school, district, charter, and county leaders can use to determine their readiness for and progress toward effective and equitable Common Core implementation. Then it lays out potential investments schools and districts might make in the three areas (professional development, instructional materials and technology) that can be funded with the $1.25 billion dollars to accelerate equitable Common Core implementation.

In addition to these suggestions, the brief identifies potential pitfalls schools and districts should avoid. For some Local Education Agencies (LEA’s) such as Sacramento City, the extra funding will boost thoughtful implementation efforts already underway. For others, it will jumpstart activity that has yet—but urgently needs—to begin. In either case, the brief is an accessible way for local education and community leaders to determine the strength of their efforts to implement the instructional, technological, and curricular changes necessary to effectively and equitably implement the new Common Core standards and the statewide assessments scheduled for 2014-2015.


California GEAR UP Wraps Principal and Leadership Institutes

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After two months of hard work we are excited to announce all 48 California GEAR UP Middle Schools completed two day institutes across the state. These facilitated strategic planning sessions are the core of California GEAR UP work, involving all School Leadership Team members, Whole School Services Coaches, GEAR UP staff, and our statewide partnership organizations.

Some of the highlights of the institutes were the Common Core State Standards demonstration lesson from the College Board and the premier of our Ideas in Action rotation that included presentations from our school leadership teams. Ideas in Action looked everything from technology in the classroom to the implementation of Instructional Rounds school-wide to placing students in classes for success.

The two-day Institute uses our SSAR (school self assessment rubric) to look at school-wide perceptions  and offers strategies and techniques for focusing on the school-determined needs. It provides opportunities to learn about successes and challenges from other school teams. The institutes also provide additional opportunity for the School Leadership Team to work on the SSAR conditions and plan for implementation of their PDAP (professional development action plan)goals. Trained facilitators provide direction through a guided discussion and reflection promotes the beginning of a shared vision, the identification and coordination of resources, and the use of student data to develop and implement a unified schoolwide plan.

Schools teams will now return to their sites with a better understanding of creating a transformative community-wide college going culture while being better equipped to leverage GEAR UP resources. Being a California GEAR UP school is a 6 year process, of which schools are embarking upon their second year. California GEAR UP School Services Coaches will meeting with schools across the state to facilitate use of GEAR UP tools, work on implementing Professional Development Action Plans, and scheduling Partnership and Statewide Services.

The purpose of California GEAR UP is to develop and sustain the organizational capacity of middle schools to prepare all students for high school and higher education through a statewide network of support for adults who influence middle school students, specifically their counselors, faculty, school leaders and families. As a result of this expanded capacity, a higher proportion of students, particularly from backgrounds and communities that have not historically pursued a college education, will enroll and succeed in higher education.

For more information on California GEAR UP, please visit our website.

To see pictures of California GEAR UP Schools in action, check out our Facebook page and let us know what you think.


Common Core State Standards Officially in Print Form


SACRAMENTO—With schools beginning the year deeply engaged in the transition to theCommon Core State Standards, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced that they are available in print for the first time.

CDE Press, the publishing arm of the California Department of Education, is now offering print versions of the California Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects (CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy)and California Common Core State Standards: Mathematics (CA CCSSM). Previously, the documents were available only online.

At the same time, Torlakson released a short video explaining in plain language the importance of California’s transition to assessments based on the new Common Core State Standards.

“These standards are the blueprints for remodeling our education system, laying out step-by-step what students need to know and be able to do to graduate ready to start a career or go to college,” Torlakson said. “And if we’re updating how and what we teach students, then we have to update the way we test as well.”

Standards define the knowledge, concepts, and skills students should acquire at each grade level. The Common Core standards are designed so that all students—no matter where they come from or where they live—receive a world-class education that is consistent from school to school, and graduate ready to contribute to the future of the state and the country.

The standards were developed by teachers, principals, parents, education experts, and feedback from the public in an initiative spearheaded by governors and state school chiefs. Almost all 50 states have voluntarily signed on, including California, which formally adopted the standards in 2010.

Implementation decisions remain with local school boards, and the standards establish what students need to learn in English-language arts and mathematics, but they do not tell teachers how to teach. The standards provide a clear understanding of what students are expected to learn at every grade level.

One of the next steps statewide is the transition to new, computer-based assessments aligned to the Common Core. Torlakson’s recommendations for this change are incorporated in AB 484, which is making its way through the legislative process.

The publications are available for purchase, with the prices set to offset printing and shipping costs. Details on how to order them, including sales tax and shipping and handling fees, are available on the CDE Press’ Catalog Listings of Publications or by calling toll-free, 1-800-995-4099.

Common Core Training Session Draws Overflow Crowd

Nearly 1,400 LA Unified educators flooded the California State University Dominguez Hills campus in Carson on Saturday for a free conference on the Common Core State Standards.  “Launch LA Common Core” was organized by Teach Plus, a nonprofit that focuses on professional development for teachers.

The event was held as states are scrambling to train teachers in implementing the new standards. The demand for training is high—about 4,000 teachers wanted to attend the conference at Dominguez Hills. In the first 24 hours of sign-up, 1,700 teachers crashed the online reservation system.

In a workshop titled “Common Core Shifts in Teaching Practice & Learning,” teachers tackled a word problem that instructed them to design the biggest and smallest dog pen possible, using 64 feet of fence. Teachers drew narrow, rectangular pens, square pens and even circular pens. As they worked, they talked about how the problem has “real-world application” and how they would have to provide background knowledge to students who don’t know the meaning of “pen.”

The teachers in the room were most impressed with the way Bonnie Kwon, a 3rdgrade teacher at Knox Elementary, solved the problem. To make the dog pen even bigger, she used a wall of a house as part of the perimeter. “That’s outside-the-box thinking,” one teacher said.

“I never learned like this before,” said Candice Smith, a K–1 teacher at 95th Street Elementary. “When I was a kid, we just learned the formulas for calculating perimeter and area. We threw out the dog!”

All in all, teachers appeared undaunted by the tough task ahead. Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy acknowledged in his opening address that teaching the Common Core standards would be “unbelievably difficult.”

“We’re going to fail; we’re going to stumble,” Deasy said. “But if we are afraid to stumble, we are not going to succeed. The best advice I can give you: Stay calm and teach on.”

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