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Apodaca: Common Core and Newport-Mesa

October 27, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

The first thing I noticed upon entering Supt. Fred Navarro's office was the frame on the wall containing his two UCLA diplomas next to a picture of the university's iconic Royce Hall. Newport-Mesa Unified School District's new leader immediately received extra likeability points from this former Bruin.

On the job since July, Navarro said he's "really enjoying the challenge. It's an amazing district."

The former Costa Mesa High School principal returned at a critical juncture. Education budgets have been slashed and could face deeper cuts starting next year. Meanwhile, Newport-Mesa is one of many districts straining to improve standardized test scores at underperforming schools.

Add to that the stain of embarrassment and public mistrust of district officials left by Navarro's predecessor, Jeffrey Hubbard, who was convicted last January on two counts of misappropriating public funds.

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Navarro said he hasn't felt any added pressure or scrutiny due to the Hubbard fiasco and referred to his own reputation as a straight-shooting man of integrity.

Of greater concern to him is navigating the district through an age of dwindling resources.

"We've lost a lot that people don't realize," he said. "These are challenging times — unprecedented challenging times."

But the subject I was really there to discuss was the future, in particular a coming wave of educational reform that promises to be — "revolutionary" is overused, so I'll go with "a generational shift."

I refer to the Common Core State Standards. Don't be chagrined if you haven't heard the term, or if you're aware of it but don't have a clue what it means. Many educators still struggle with it.

Navarro believes Common Core "will help us elevate the performance of our students so they really are college and career ready."

The National Governors Assn. for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers developed the new framework in collaboration with teachers, administrators and education experts, and after study of effective practices from across the country and around the world.

A total of 45 states have adopted the standards and are in various phases of rollout. California Schools Chief Tom Torlakson announced an implementation plan last March, which calls for Common Core to be in place in all English and math instruction by the 2014-15 school year.

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