By Lynne Bronstein
Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD) is implementing a Professional Learning Community (PLC) using the Common Core standards--and the School Board is being informed about these standards in a series of presentations by Dr. Kati Krumpe, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a U.S. education program that brings diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following the principles of standards-based education reform.
It was developed in the early 2000s by a group of educators convened by the National Governors Association. Forty-five states, four territories, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the Common Core standards.
At Tuesday's meeting, Dr. Krumpe spoke on the first of Common Core's "Four Questions:" "What Do We Want Our Kids to Know?"
The Common Core standards' benefits, said Dr. Krumpe, are: that they are built on strengths of old state standards; student expectations are clear and consistent; the standards are benchmarked against international standards, and they allow for collaboration among states on best practices, professional development, and materials.
"Often kindergarten [standards] did not align with [those of]first and second grade-they were often mismatched," said Dr. Krumpe. "Now you can literally lay a common standard across K-12."
She quoted the Common Core mission statement: "The Common Core State Standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy."
Dr. Krumpe then spoke on how Culver City is going to implement the cultural changes brought by the Common Core standards. The criteria for selecting essential standards can be broken down into three components: endurance-will the standards provide students with the knowledge and skills that are valuable beyond a single test date?, leverage-will it provide knowledge and skills that are valuable in multiple disciplines?, and preparation for the next level.
The standards will be implemented district-wide from grades kindergarten to 12th grade.
"We had a professional development day where we worked with teachers to expose them to the standards. Our goal is that by November 13 to have everyone caught up," explained Dr. Krumpe.
Features of the implementation include leadership teams, with all grade levels working together; rewriting standards in "kid-friendly language" that students and parents can understand; and a parent component that will expose parents to the changes in standards and testing.
There will be an elementary math implementation, involving two school sites participating in an intensive Cotsen program utilizing UCLA's Cognitively Guided Instruction. This will feature two mentors , one at La Ballona and one at Linwood E. Howe Elementary.
Ten secondary teachers are implementing year 1 of the Math Leadership Corps Program through LMU. This will expand to additional participating teachers for 2014-2015.
As for funding of this program, Dr. Krumpe said the plan is to utilize one third of the monies received each year for the next three years.
"We don't know how it is going to go-so we want to be sure to save money based on what teacher development tools we need."
For the 2013-2014 school year, the financial focus would be on professional development, instructional materials, and technology with an initial focus on infrastructure.
From the audience, George Laase had a question: what was meant by "infrastructure?
"Before we buy devices," said Dr. Krumpe, "we need to make sure that our bandwidth-our speed-will work. We have sites that have spotty Internet connections."
Board member Patricia Siever asked what the budget for Common Core looked like.
Dr. Krumpe said the Common Core program gave some anxiety to the state legislature so they created a new categorized program specifically for its budget. The budget for this year is estimated to be about one million.
Siever also wondered how the program improves learning in students.
"It's hard to predict," said Dr. Krumpe. "It requires teachers to have literacy responsibility in their programs.
"It's the perseverance that students will have to show in multi-step questions-to explain why you got that answer."
Dr. Siever thanked Dr. Krumpe, saying that her "passion and knowledge is wonderful for our district."
Board member Laura Chardiet opined that the implementation of Common Core sounded like "invading a small country" and wondered if it was difficult for parents to accept.
Dr. Krumpe admitted that parents have had their anxieties about the new program. But "the more we 'unwrap' the standards, the more they're calming down."
Karlo Silbiger said the new program would be great in allowing teachers to give "a complex test and see students dig into it." But he added that the sooner the program is implemented, the less anxiety there will be among teachers using the program.
And an audience member mentioned that above all, there must be a comfortable and safe learning environment. He said he had done work with the handicapped students in the District and during the hot months, classrooms and the nurse's office were unbearably hot.
"We need air conditioning," he said.