By Richard Bammer
In an age of increasing technology, the value of handwriting has surfaced as a topic of debate in American academic circles. The overriding question is, does it matter anymore? After all, “keyboarding,” or touch typing, begins in second grade in many schools, and, a year later, third-graders begin to take all-computerized state standardized tests?
Perhaps not very much to some educators.
Case in point: In October, 2015, Carolyn Thomas, a digital education specialist at Fairmont Elementary in Vacaville, told The Reporter that teachers no longer teach cursive handwriting at the Marshall Road campus. I have been thinking about her statement ever since.
However, the Common Core State Standards, which most states have adopted, call for teaching legible writing in grades K-1 but not necessarily afterward. States are permitted to add an additional 15 percent of their own standards as they see fit. Several states, including California, Massachusetts, North Carolina and South Carolina, decided to make cursive instruction mandatory as part of their standards enhancements.
Source: In the ‘keyboarding’ era, will handwriting skills fade?
By Theresa Harrington
Changes are underway to fix flaws in tests designed to help teachers pinpoint student weaknesses before they take Common Core–aligned assessments each spring.
The tests, known as “interim assessments,” are similar to the end-of-the year Smarter Balanced assessments that are used to assess student achievement and progress, as well as that of their schools and districts, in math and English language arts. More than 3 million California students take the Smarter Balanced assessments each year.
Many teachers have given the optional interim tests to their students during the school year to gauge how they are doing, hoping to adjust what or how they teach in advance of the final assessments that are used to fulfill state and federal accountability requirements.
Source: Teacher complaints lead to improvements in state tests | EdSource
By Tom Berger
The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 42 states and the District of Columbia, call for handwriting instruction in kindergarten and first grade only, and teaching in keyboard skills after that. The standards don’t mention cursive. But 14 states require cursive instruction, and the skill inspires fierce loyalty, with some going so far as to argue that the founding fathers would disapprove of our abandonment of the script—students must learn cursive in order to decipher the intent of the original Constitution, for example—and others suggesting that our very identities are compromised when we can’t create identifiable signatures.
As Alabama state Rep. Dickie Drake, who sponsored a 2016 bill requiring cursive instruction in schools, put it, “I think your cursive writing identifies you as much as your physical features do.”
Source: What We Lose With the Decline of Cursive | Edutopia
By Louis Freedberg and Theresa Harrington
Opposition by President Donald Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to the Common Core is unlikely to slow implementation of the new standards in English language arts and math in states like California, where there has been little opposition to the standards.
That is the consensus of education leaders in California from diverse regions of the state, even those in areas of the state where the majority of voters cast their ballots for Trump. One reason is that implementation of the Common Core is well underway in most parts of the state, and reversing its momentum will be difficult, if not impossible, to do.
Voters backed Trump in 26 out of 58 California counties, including Kern County, where Trump received 53 percent of the vote. Kern County Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow said implementation of the standards in her county is fully underway and “we are seeing a lot of progress.” She noted that despite the pro-Trump sentiment there, “we have had relatively little pushback on the California state standards.”
Source: Common Core in California likely to continue despite Trump opposition | EdSource
By Theresa Harrington
A website launched by two educational nonprofit organizations aims to make it easier for California schools and districts to choose instructional materials aligned to the Common Core standards.
Called the California Curriculum Collaborative, the site lists curriculum materials in math and English language arts for grades K-8 recommended by the State Board of Education. The site also provides detailed information about K-12 resources reviewed by the nonprofit EdReports.
The site was established through a partnership between EdReports and Pivot Learning, a nonprofit that provides college- and career-readiness support services to schools.
Source: New website provides information about Common Core materials | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
The Common Core State Standards have faced strong opposition in many states, but in California, more than three out of five registered voters support them, according to a poll commissioned by the Oakland-based nonprofit advocacy group Children Now.
In the telephone survey of 1,000 registered voters, 63 percent said they either strongly or somewhat favor the standards, while 33 percent said they somewhat or strongly oppose them, with 4 percent expressing no view.
Larger percentages of Hispanic, African-American and Asian voters said they favored the standards than white parents, who comprised 51 percent of those surveyed, according to EMC Research, the polling firm that administered the survey.
“We are not surprised to find that Common Core support remains strong in our state,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, which backs the standards. “California has been a leader in implementing the updated education standards and the test results are doing what they are meant to do—shine a light on achievement gaps, which is crucial to creating a more equitable education system for California’s kids.”
Source: California poll shows strong support for Common Core standards | EdSource
By Jennifer Peck and David Plank
When we think of school we too often picture rows of students sitting quietly at their desks, listening to the teacher or reading a textbook. This familiar image of a quiet classroom and docile students is and should be increasingly outdated. The state’s new Common Core and Next Generation science standards require teachers to teach and students to learn in more dynamic ways. They raise the bar for subject-matter knowledge in English, math and science.
These standards also aim to ensure that students engage in deeper learning by focusing on what are sometimes called “the four C’s:” communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. These are skills that are essential for success in today’s job market that cannot be nurtured if students are sitting quietly in rows in the classroom.
California’s new Common Core standards and a growing body of research are driving increased interest in social-emotional learning as an essential component of student success. Without skills like the ability to manage stress, to empathize with people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and to engage successfully in the small-group work required for deeper learning, students cannot be successful. And, unless educators work actively to help students develop these skills, schools will not be able to deliver on the broader set of Local Control Funding Formula priorities that the state has adopted, promoting positive and productive school climates.
Source: Summer and after-school programs can promote social and emotional learning | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
The State Board of Education on Wednesday is planning to choose a handful of statewide metrics to measure student performance as part of its creation of a new school accountability system.
The board will approve the new system in September and begin using it in the fall of 2017. It will replace the Academic Performance Index, the single-number score, based solely on standardized test scores, that the board suspended two years ago. The board is also designing the new system to satisfy federal accountability requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
State board staff are recommending that the board initially choose five metrics to identify which schools and districts need assistance and which demand more intensive intervention.
Source: State board to choose school improvement metrics | EdSource
By Richard Bammer
Understanding Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” The Bard’s play about “star-crossed lovers,” is not so easy for ninth-graders, much less adults.
There’s Elizabethan English, for one thing, which requires slowed-down reading; poetry written in something called iambic pentameter, for another; and what about the play’s subject matter? It’s more than a story about teenage love, isn’t it?
Thankfully, there are well-informed, dynamic teachers, on this National Teacher Day, to make sense of it all, such as Will C. Wood High School English teacher Christina Mitsiopoulos, who, on Monday, held forth during an early afternoon class and, for nearly an hour, managed to focus 32 antsy teens on the playwright’s words.
Source: #ThankATeacher may say it all
By Theresa Harrington
The Fresno and Visalia school districts are spending $10 million each on new schools.
San Jose Unified put about $12 million toward staff bonuses, while Santa Ana Unified spent $9 million on retiree benefits.
The money is coming from about $3.6 billion in tax revenues California’s about 1,000 school districts received over the past two years. The Legislature specified that it “intended” for districts to “prioritize” spending of the one-time funds on implementing academic standards, including Common Core standards in math and English.
But lawmakers also told districts that they first had to use the funds as reimbursement for outstanding claims for programs and services mandated by the state. Because districts had already covered the past mandated expenses, they were free to use the one-time reimbursements “for any purpose.”
Source: School budget laws complicate tracking of Common Core spending | EdSource
By Richard Bammer
Snickers was a treat in so many ways Wednesday at Callison Elementary in Vacaville.
Candy? No. A bovid ruminant, commonly called a cow, yes.
And there she was, doe-eyed with black and white markings, eating hay and chewing her cud, a 1,200-pound lesson, on four hooves, on science, health and food literacy.
The 5-year-old Holstein, from a dairy ranch in Galt, Snickers was the natural center of attention while standing in her mobile trailer parked on the asphalt playground at the Vanden Road campus.
via: The Reporter
By John Fensterwald
A dozen California school districts are joining more than two dozen states and a fast-increasing number of districts that are making the SAT or its rival, the ACT, available to all high school juniors for free in an effort to encourage more students to apply to college.
Beginning this month, the students are taking the new SAT, which debuted last week. The College Board, the nonprofit that developed and administers the test, says the latest version better measures the core skills that students learn in high school, such as citing evidence from lengthy reading passages to back up their answers. The test also aims to reflect what students learn under the Common Core standards. Among the changes, it eliminated the vocabulary quiz of arcane words that students would rarely see outside of SAT prep courses.
Source: Dozen districts offer free SAT to all juniors | EdSource
By Richard Bammer
The new-look SAT, in its biggest redesign in 10 years, debuts Saturday for hundreds of Vacaville-area students and hundreds of thousands more nationwide who will, in most cases, grapple with the hours-long reading, writing and math test that is used for college entrance.
By all accounts, the revamped version seems to be more in line with assessments based on the new Common Core State Standards, with reading portions more focused on current issues rather than passages from classic literature. The math portion, likely more often than not, will be in the form of word problems.
An essay portion — although the results are sought by admissions officers at many colleges, especially elite private schools and some major public universities — is optional. Students who decide not to write an essay would see about 50 minutes shaved off the length of the test.
Source: New-look SAT debuts Saturday
By Sarah Tully
Just over 20,000 California students opted out of last year’s Smarter Balanced assessments – far fewer than in other states, where resistance to the Common Core has been greater, a final tally from the state shows.
In December, the California Department of Education issued a final list of opt-outs in each school district. It indicates that a mere .61 percent of the 3.3 million students who took the Common Core-aligned tests in math and English language arts last spring opted out.
Only 39 districts out of all 1,022 districts statewide had more than 100 students opt out of English testing. For math, only 37 districts reported more than 100 opt-outs.
Statewide, the highest number of opt-outs was in the 11th grade – 8,526 students, or 1.8 percent of the total number of high school juniors, from the math test, and 8,318 students, or 1.7 percent, from the English test. Opt-opt rates were under .5 percent in all other grades.
via Final tally shows few opt-outs from Common Core-aligned tests in California | EdSource.
By Theresa Harrington
School districts in California may get a new influx of money to reimburse as much as $600 million in estimated costs related to the administration of mandated tests, based on a state commission’s decision Friday.
The Commission on State Mandates found that required Internet access, training and technology necessary to administer new computer-based tests under the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, program, are reimbursable state mandates. This is because districts were required to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars beginning in 2013-14 on upgrading technology and related costs to comply with the state’s mandate to administer the tests.
“Today’s decision recognizes the constitutional obligation of the state to ensure that the state provides school districts and county offices of education with resources necessary to implement new state programs,” said Chris Ungar, president of the California School Boards Association and a San Luis Coastal Unified district trustee, in a prepared statement.
via State to reimburse costs related to Common Core tests | EdSource.
By Richard Bammer
The recent reissuing of a list of California’s lowest-achieving schools, including 10 in Solano County, has left Vacaville-area educators scratching their heads because the list uses 2013 data that is based on a test no longer in use.
The list — re-released Monday by the state Department of Education after a prominent Republican state senator threatened a lawsuit late last year — identifies 1,000 “open enrollment schools,” named after a state law passed in 2010, and makes it easier for students to transfer from their neighborhood school to another with a higher academic ratings. The best-known provision of the Open Enrollment Act is the so-called “parent trigger,” which allows parents of children in low-performing schools to intervene.
State education officials reluctantly reissued the list under pressure from state Sen. Bob Huff of San Dimas, most recently the Republican Senate leader, and school improvement groups.
via Reissued state list of subpar schools confounds local educators.
By Kristin DeCarr
Beginning in February, a group of districts throughout California will begin to evaluate their schools using more than just test scores.
A group made up of some of the largest districts in the state, CORE, is expected to discuss its new plan for measuring public schools in the state at the California School Boards Association Conference in San Diego.
School scores are expected to account not only for academic performance, but also how safe children feel while on campus, suspension rates, skills that cannot be measured by traditional academic tests, such as self-control and social awareness, and how quickly students who do not speak English are learning the language, among other things.
The group hopes that the new measures will offer a broader picture of how schools in California are truly operating.The group is expected to release preliminary results of the first attempt at using the measures in the coming months.
via California CORE Districts to Evaluate Schools Differently.
By Theresa Harrington
The State Board of Education is set to adopt a new set of instructional materials and textbooks for kindergarten through 8th grade on Wednesday that incorporates what education officials describe as a pathbreaking approach to more effectively teaching English learners.
In January 2014, the state board adopted a set of recommended textbooks for math aligned with the Common Core, but it has taken nearly two additional years to come up with its list of Common Core-aligned recommended textbooks and other instructional materials in English language arts. This is in part because it has integrated English language development – which teaches English learners to speak and read English – into the English Language Arts framework that was adopted last year.
via California prepares to adopt materials for new English learner approach | EdSource.
By Katherine Ellison
It seems an unlikely battlefront for a revolution – this two-story wooden house off a quiet side street in a small coastal town bordering Silicon Valley.
Yet this is the headquarters of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, or ISKME, whose wonkish name belies its upstart challenge to the multibillion-dollar textbook industry.
The 12-year-old nonprofit is a leading champion of the “Open Educational Resources” movement – a growing campaign, strongly rooted in California, to make educational materials available online and free of cost. The movement has gained increasing clout in U.S. classrooms as teachers and school districts seek up-to-date materials to meet new demands stemming from the Common Core State Standards. In one sign of its growing importance, the U.S. Department of Education last month hired its first in-house adviser to help school districts use such resources more effectively.
via Free online content helps teachers meet Common Core demands | EdSource.
By Fermin Leal
As parents across the state open the envelopes containing their children’s scores on the new Smarter Balanced assessments administered last spring, only a third of them will see that their children met or exceeded the math standard on the new Common Core-aligned tests.
In fact, only one-third of California students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 met the math standard – compared to 44 percent of students who met the standard in English language arts. That is also significantly lower than the percentage who scored at a proficient level in math on the old California Standards tests.
via Educators try to come to terms with low math scores on Smarter Balanced tests | EdSource.