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Common Core dissected

Special meeting of Newport-Mesa board offers a view of what's working and not working with the new state standards.

October 30, 2013|By Hannah Fry
  • Terri Clarke, a second grade teacher at Newport Elementary School, answers a question from WIll Green, 7, during a lesson Oct. 10.
Terri Clarke, a second grade teacher at Newport Elementary… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Newport-Mesa Unified School District teachers and administrators spoke about the successes and struggles associated with implementing the new Common Core State Standards during a special board meeting Tuesday.

The district's teachers have been developing course curriculum in math and English-language arts for K-12 classes for the past two years. This year, the district's pilot year, is preparing them to fully launch Common Core lessons in 2014.

Now, teachers at the high school level are beginning to look into designing curriculum to adhere to the Common Core standards in science and social studies.

Cristen Rasmussen, who teaches science at Costa Mesa High School, said the team of teachers tasked with developing new science curriculum has been formed for about a month.

"The goal this year is to allow teachers to collaborate and familiarize them with the next generation of science standards," she said.

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The state recently adopted the Common Core standards that apply to high school science. Middle school standards have not been adopted yet.

No science- or social studies-specific testing will be conducted until the 2016-17 school year, Rasmussen said.

Several teachers, including Mark Africano, a sixth-grade teacher at Newport Heights Elementary, spoke positively about utilizing Common Core lessons.

He said the new standards are "waking teachers up" after years of the same curriculum and revitalizing their excitement about teaching.

"We're able to use our creativity and our love of learning to teach kids what they're going to need in the 21st century," he said.

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Increased IT costs

While teachers are boasting success in the classroom, the district is attempting to prepare for the new Smarter Balanced computer tests by ramping up technology in schools.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 484 into law this month, paving the way for tests that align with the new standards and focus on critical thinking, interpretation and writing skills.

The law suspends most STAR tests to allow districts to transition to the California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress assessments, set to go into effect in the 2014-15 school year, according to a California Department of Education news release.

This year, the majority of students will be assessed on computers through a system called Smarter Balanced, which customizes questions based on student performance and will involve more writing.

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