A student uses an iPad in class.

California schools began introducing new standardized exams on Tuesday, as part of the new federal Common Core curriculum. It’s a big change for K-12 education, but this week’s tests don’t have huge consequences since the results won’t count for evaluating kids or schools until next year. We take a look at the Common Core rollout and what it all means for students, teachers and learning in the state.

Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and professor emeritus of education at Stanford University
Kathryn Baron, education reporter for EdSource
Kimberly Rodriguez, legislative advocate for the Association of California School Administrators
Stan Karp, director of the Secondary Reform Project at the Education Law Center
Eric Heins, vice president of the California Teacher's Association

  • John

    I’ve heard that the Common Core standards are much higher and the content is more difficult than what is currently used in CA public schools. Do you expect a spike in the failure/drop-out rate as a result?

  • Hannah B.P.

    Former HS History teacher here. From teachers I’ve talked to implementation of CC isn’t ready for testing because many schools won’t have the computers/tech needed for it. Varies how effective the transition is going by district, school, and dept. Many Soc Stu depts have to juggle both old CST (which was already overloaded) and CC. Some schools are still giving old STAR tests, but are implementing CC, so won’t be covering what’s on those tests. Most teachers don’t have issues with CC standards, but do have problems with the assessments and/or the way implementation has been rolled out.

    • Sanfordia113

      Why should students need to “study the test?” Just study your subjects, and take the test. Either you are absorbing information and study skills, or not.

  • “ANALYZE, ASSESS, EVALUATE” – how BORING from a child’s perspective! What happened to making sure kids get some JOY from learning? What about “EXPLORE DISCOVER CREATE”? Given the nature of children, and what a special time CHILDHOOD is, I think we owe it to kids to make their learning more of a pleasure. Too many kids HATE school.

  • Bob Fry

    Could you take a minute to explain the background? I thought nationwide, standard testing had been going on for years as part of No Child Left Behind. How is Common Core new or different?

    • David

      NCLB required testing, but each state could choose/design the test, based on its own standards. Common Core standards were supported by the US Ed. Dept., the Gates Foundation, and state governors and superintendents. They were designed by folks from higher ed., testing experts – but only one teacher was involved. There are about 45 states on board, with each state choosing one of two possible testing options – you can look them up with the acronyms SBAC (the one CA is using) and PARCC.

  • Robert Thomas

    I tried taking the 8th grade math test. It was not unchallenging; naively speaking, I thought it was a good test for the grade level. The only real trouble I had (being a somewhat more advanced student) was deciding how to use some of the interesting, simple graphical tools – things like select / deselect and move and drop and so on that were slightly different from utilities I generally use – I’m an old guy, okay?

    But I admit to being perplexed – as a networking machinery engineer of thirteen years – about how “internet bandwidth” could be a challenge here.

    Aside from the fact that a district and its schools should have their own private subnets for all of these interactions (I’m SURE they do), the interaction traffic these applications represent, even with a LOT of users looking at little videos and so forth, is tiny.

    When I hear education professionals make assertions such as these, it makes me uneasy about their understanding of any numerical data or fact they report, either about this implementation infrastructure OR about the results of the Common Core test evaluation.

  • rplantz

    I went through the California school system in the 40s and 50s. We were known for having an excellent educational system then. What has changed? I’m a retired software engineer/computer science professor, so I’m not techno-phobic, but I understand that computers do not necessarily improve everything.

    • Robert Thomas

      I see that in the 40s and 50s and 60s (the period during which my public-school-enthusiast parents praised it and instilled these attitudes in me and my siblings) that the people who voted funds for and supported California public schools saw reflections of themselves, with respect to ethnicity and English language usage and so on, in its students from kindergarten to graduate school. As the perception has grown for many conservative voters (justly or unjustly) that public education is a bottomless well into which money is thrown (a perception sharpened by the Serrano v. Priest decision, honorably arrived at as a just mechanism for educating California’s children), the common enthusiasm not only for opening wallets but for the social program of quality education for all of our communities’ kids has been challenged.

      This is annoying. I don’t know what the answer is to renewing the peoples’ enthusiasm, but I’d sure like to figure it out.

      It was instilled in me by an elderly engineer and his wife who lived across the street from me when I was a kid that (having raised no children in California themselves) they paid their taxes to put ALL of the kids into good schools (including those of people who didn’t look or speak like them), not just their neighbors’. Else, why pay them at all? My parents weren’t uncritical of adults they considered irresponsible but they vehemently refused to allow that kids should be punished for their parents’ poor choices.

      California made a vault into the future at the time of WWII, when that convulsion (with the help of financing from the entire nation) created the most modern state in the union. People like my parents recognized the unprecedented opportunity California had given them. They felt as though they owed something back; in those days people seem to have been more likely to think with an “Ask not what your state…” than a “What’s in it for me?” perspective. How do we recover the former?

      • rplantz

        I did not have any children, yet I have always been more than happy to pay taxes for the education of OUR children. Our true priorities can be seen in how we spend our money. The first priority of a society is to protect itself from outside invasion. We do that in spades. The second priority is to educate those who will follow us. We are constantly looking for cheaper ways to do this.

        I vividly recall JFK’s “Ask not what your country…” speech. Reagan changed the mood of the country with “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” I don’t know if he actually intended for people to interpret his statement as they have, but it has a nice ring for advocates of smaller government. In my view, the whole purpose of government is to solve the problems that a society has. Unfortunately, too many people have taken Reagan’s remarks to mean that we should give up on government and turn everything over to the “free market.” The free market generally follows a Darwinian selection process — the strong (rich) win, and the weak (not rich) lose.

        • Robert Thomas

          Yes. It’s very hard for me to allow any benevolent aspect at all to Ronald Reagan. He despised the University of California and distrusted educated people. But I wonder whether even the henna-dyed Great Communicator would be as bold as to admit that such a level of suspicion and antagonism toward public institutions isn’t pernicious. As I wrote above and as I’ve come to believe, what separates my inescapably increasing old-guy attitude from those of old right wingers and young libertines (uh, libertarians) is that a society is declining if it decides to punish children for the behavior (or any other shortcoming, real or imagined) of their parents.

          • rplantz

            It is rather ironic that the chief executive of our government would say that government is bad. A little like I, as a professor, speaking against higher education. I will go to my grave never having figured out some things, one being the worship of Ronald Reagan.

  • Lasha Ross

    How will CC effect what is taught classroom to classroom? Currently my son’s 4th grade class covers more material than my friend’s child at another school but on the same school district. There currently is no curriculum that each teacher uses just topics they need to pick and choose to teach?

  • kent602

    Do student test results get included in trancripts? A concern for highschool students in the first wave of testing.

  • Josh

    What about how test results get evaluated? Will they take into account learning disabilities? So often, education can be modified towards teaching test taking skills. How about having the test geared towards evaluating child development and learning preferences?

  • Robert Thomas

    My experience with PTA is that parents often don’t know that it’s active in their schools and will often say “PTA” when the institution is PTA, Home and School Club, school foundation organization or other parent-teacher organization. In general, PTA tries to remain an advocacy organization and resists pressure to be a cash cow for its member districts and schools.

  • Lucille Cuttler

    Enough with the testing. The pipeline from school to prison is choking with youth who first become truants and then dropouts. We can stop the truancy and the road to prison by stopping it before it begins. A fourth grade education doesn’t hack it. Teachers need evidence based methods to assure all kids are readers – the very basis for critical thinking. Literate Nation is a non-profit whose mission is to see all teachers are prepared to assure all kids are readers. We have learned to avoid cancer by not smoking. It’s the old adage: an ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure. Support http://www.literatenation.org

  • sila

    These panels so rarely include teachers.

    • Eileen

      Eric Hein, on the panel, is a teacher, on leave to be the Vice President of the CTA.

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