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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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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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

State Superintendent Proposes New Statewide Testing System

Common Core Assessments to Focus on Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today recommended shifting the focus of standardized testing in California to require students to think critically, solve problems, and show a greater depth of knowledge—key tenants of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In a report to the Governor and Legislature, Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment SystemTorlakson made a dozen recommendations that would fundamentally change the state’s student assessment system, replacing the paper-and-pencil based Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program assessments with computerized assessments developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) starting in the 2014‒15 school year.

“Multiple-choice, fill-in-the-bubble tests alone simply cannot do the job anymore, and it’s time for California to move forward with assessments that measure the real-world skills our students need to be ready for a career and for college,” Torlakson said.

“As a teacher, what’s most exciting is that these new tests will serve as models for the kind of high-quality teaching and learning we want in every classroom every day,” Torlakson continued. “The concept is simple but powerful: if our tests require students to think critically and solve problems to do well on test day, those same skills are much more likely to be taught in our classrooms day in and day out.”

Torlakson’s report was mandated by Assembly Bill 250 (Brownley, D-Santa Monica), which the State Superintendent sponsored, to bring school curriculum, instruction, and the state assessment system into alignment with the CCSS. The state’s existing STAR Program assessments are scheduled to sunset July 1, 2014.

California is one of 45 states and three territories that formally have adopted the CCSS for mathematics and English‒language arts. The proposed revisions to align the state’s assessment system with the new standards mark a key milestone in implementing the Common Core.

California serves as a governing state in SBAC, a multistate‒led group that has been working collaboratively to develop a student assessment system aligned with the CCSS.

The SBAC was designed to meet federal- and state-level accountability requirements and provide teachers and parents with timely and accurate information to measure and track individual student growth.

Among the 12 recommendations is the suspension of particular STAR Program assessments for the coming school year unless the exams are specifically mandated by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or used for the Early Assessment Program (EAP). This would suspend STAR testing of second graders and end-of-course exams at the high-school level.

Torlakson also recommends that the state provide formative diagnostic tools developed by SBAC to all schools, which would provide teachers and schools with the option of receiving continuing informal feedback on the progress of students throughout the school year.

As required by AB 250, Torlakson’s recommendations reflect an assessment system that would meet the requirements of the current ESEA. But the report also puts forth several different approaches of assessment and urges policymakers to question the current regimen of testing all students, every year, in English‒language arts and mathematics.

Through work group meetings, focus groups, regional public meetings, a statewide survey, and an e-mail account specifically for public comments, thousands of stakeholders provided input to the California Department of Education regarding the state’s transition to a new assessment system.

“I extend my gratitude to the many teachers, school administrators, parents, students, business leaders, and higher education faculty for their expertise and experience that contributed to the formation of these recommendations, Torlakson said.

Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System can be found on the Statewide Pupil Assessment System Web page. More information on California’s efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards can be found on the California Department of Education’s Common Core State Standards Web page.

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Torlakson Invites Comment on New Career Technical Standards

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today invited the public to comment on the new Career Technical Education (CTE) Model Curriculum Standards.

“I want all students to have the skills they need for demanding careers or the rigors of college after graduating from high school,” said Torlakson. “That’s why it is so important for all Californians have input on these new standards to assure that our students have the best programs to help them succeed and prepare for the future.”

A standard is defined as the knowledge, concepts, and skills that students should acquire at each grade level. State law requires the development and adoption of CTE standards that incorporate the integration of career technical and academic education. The new CTE standards are written for grades seven through twelve. They specify learning goals in 59 career pathways organized around 15 industry sectors.

The new standards build on the previous CTE standards and were created with input from more than 300 people from business, industry, labor, postsecondary, and secondary education sectors, and were reviewed by others in the education community.

These draft standards are written to demand high-quality coursework for students to complete on their way to a future career and are aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS were developed through a state-led initiative, including California, to establish consistent, clear education standards for English-language arts and mathematics across the nation.

The new CTE standards will help better inform instructors as they prepare lesson plans for students who are exploring various career paths. They are also designed to better engage and prepare students to master the demands necessary to compete and excel in the technologically advanced workplace of the 21st century.

The new standards are available for review on the California Department of Education’s Web page at CTE Model Curriculum Standards. People may provide written comment by completing an online form found on the same Web page, or they may comment at one of two public hearings.

1.    September 17, 2012, noon to 3 p.m., Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, 350 South Bixel Ave., Los Angeles.

2.    September 19, 2012, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., California Department of Education, 1430 N Street, Room 1101, Sacramento.

The comment period ends September 19, 2012. The new standards will be revised based on these comments, and then the final version will be submitted to the State Board of Education for approval.

For more information, please visit the CTE Model Curriculum Standards or call 916-324-5706.

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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

10% of California Schools are in Deep Trouble

A recently released report by State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson shows 13 school districts have “negative” certifications.  That means they may not be able to cover their bills through the end of next year.

Nearly 2 million students—roughly 30 percent of pupils in California—now attend school in a district facing serious financial jeopardy, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced.

“The emergency confronting California’s schools is widening and deepening,” Torlakson said. “As disturbing as these numbers are, unless the Legislature moves to place the Governor’s tax extension plan on the ballot, they are just the tip of the financial iceberg facing school districts up and down the state.”

Torlakson’s findings came as he released the results of the first semiannual Interim Status Report that represents budget certifications for California local educational agencies (LEAs) through the end of October 2010. The reports reflect a certification of whether an LEA is able to meet its financial obligations.

The number of LEAs on the negative certification list rose to 13 from 12 last year at this time. The number of LEAs on the qualified certification list dipped slightly to 97 from 114 last year at this time.

“Schools face the daunting challenge of up to $4.5 billion in additional cuts if tax extensions are not placed on the ballot by the Legislature and approved by voters in June, an additional cut of 10 percent.” added Torlakson. “This would be devastating to an education system that has already sustained $18 billion in state funding cuts over the last three years – a loss of one-third of the annual budget for schools.”

With an already decimated education budget in California, massive teacher reductions, the loss revenue from these tax extensions could be devastating. Now more than ever, support for GEAR UP programs will continue to be the lever of change throughout school districts in California.