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Apodaca: Big changes are ahead in 2014

January 04, 2014

2014 promises to be an eventful year in education.

Big changes are underway in everything from the way students are taught to the funding formula. The progression of technology and emerging social concerns will have a profound impact on learning. The struggle to develop fair methods to assess student and school progress will continue.

It's safe to assume that these issues, and the way they are dealt with, will provide us with a mixed bag of successes and failures. But as a new year dawns and hope is in the air, we can at least root for some positive movement in many areas of education.

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Following is a short list of a few of the big stories to track in education this year. This is by no means a comprehensive list and some unforeseen developments will surely arise. But these are at least a few of the important initiatives, trends and developments to keep a watchful eye on for signs of progress, and — hint, hint — to anticipate the subjects of future columns I hope to write.

1). Reform: The big question in education this year is whether Common Core will produce exceptional results. The new state standards are changing how students are taught and tested, with an emphasis on critical thinking and analysis, and a promise of a national database to measure and compare progress. The rollout is underway in schools throughout California, with "field testing" taking place this spring in preparation for a full implementation of new standardized tests in 2015.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Fred Navarro, just a year and a half into the job, has basically staked his career on Common Core, which he has embraced enthusiastically. Although there won't initially be any direct means of comparing the district's results on the new standardized tests, critics will surely pounce if scores don't live up to expectations. Not surprisingly, state officials are preaching patience and downplaying the significance of early results. Still, plenty of fingers are crossed that the implementation will go smoothly.

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