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Education Desk: Mar. 5, 2014

California Ahead of Common Core Curve, Thanks to State Ed Focus

Last week, the NPR radio news show All Things considered reported that the National Education Association (NEA), U.S.’s largest teachers union, is calling for a delay in Common Core State Standards (CCSS) adoption. As of now, 45 states have adopted the standards. However, it isn’t the standards the NEA is questioning, but the ability of all states to implement them.

“NEA members overwhelmingly supported the goals of the standards because we knew they could provide a better path forward for each and every student,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel wrote in NEAtoday.org.

However, he reports, “Seven of 10 teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get CCSS implementation right. In fact, two thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms.”

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To understand what Van Roekel is talking about, consider what Iowa Governor Terry Branstad told the NPR reporter. “Common Core is radioactive. We need to have Iowa standards, something that’s uniquely designed to meet the needs of Iowans.”

Further, some states are still using the No Child Left Behind assessments while teaching to the new curriculum. “That makes no sense,” says United Teachers of Santa Clara (UTSC) President Michael Hickey. “It’s a recipe for failure.” By contrast, “This year in SCUSD we’re testing the new tests – not the students.

“In California, we’re a little ahead of the game,” continues Hickey. “We have such a good relationship between educators and the governor, and we’re working together to lead the transition.” Plus, says Hickey, the additional money the state has allocated for education provides the resources needed for implementation.

“My mantra is that you have to have input from the teachers to successfully implement Common Core,” he says. “And we need to remind districts that it’s an ongoing process.”

Districts celebrate CTE successes

February was National Career Technical Education (CTE) Month and Santa Clara county school districts have been showcasing their CTE programs. This year’s theme, Celebrate CTE Superheroes, featured success stories by current and former CTE students, teachers, administrators, business owners and others preparing young people for the future world of work.

“CTE has never been more important,” says Jivan Dhaliwal, Curriculum and Instruction Director at Campbell Union High School District (part of Santa Clara is in CUSD). “It’s not the old vocational education of the past, but rather, one of the most important pathways for students to be college and career ready.” CUHSD is also part of a regional CTE consortium applying for state funding that would allow them to increase their CTE offerings and add a computer science pathway.

CTE has been an important component of Santa Clara Unified’s curriculum for many years, and over the last decade the district has been active in adding cutting edge programs including biotechnology, computer graphic design, building trades and construction.

Teacher Recruitment Fair Mar. 22

The Santa Clara County Office of Education will hold its annual teacher recruitment fair on Saturday, Mar. 22. Santa Clara Unified will have a booth set up to recruit teachers. For information and to register for the event, visit tinyurl.com/sccoetrf, or visit the event Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TeacherFair.

Valuing Learning Instead of Grades

Some of you may have heard the interview with astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the NPR radio talk show, Fresh Air, last week. If you didn’t, you should, because it’s a cautionary tale about learning vs. grades.

Tyson refused to give a commencement address at his former Bronx elementary school because he didn’t feel he could say anything good about his alma mater. Instead, he said that he was largely ignored there because he didn’t fit the conventional model of a “good” student – one who gets good grades in the narrow range of subjects that schools measure, the ones that “back to basics” proponents endorse. He once remarked on Twitter, “When students cheat on exams it’s because our school system values grades more than students value learning.”

While Tyson was getting those mediocre grades, he was working as a dog walker to save up to buy his own telescope, and started teaching himself astronomy at an early age. He went on to get a Ph.D. in astrophysics at Columbia – his specialty was Galactic Bulge – and is now the Director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium and will host the upcoming season of the TV show “Cosmos.”

You can listen to the interview at tinyurl.com/ndtfeb27. Tyson’s remarks about school come about halfway through the conversation.

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