A new era in education has ushered in changes of epic proportions that shift decision-making power from the state to our local districts. It is our duty as educators, parents and community members to fully understand the products of this ground-breaking transition and opportunity to shape our own future.
The Common Core State Standards have presented education with the rewarding challenge of leaving certain outdated methods of learning behind, while enhancing our existing best practices. Common Core provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks used to prepare our children for success after high school. It outlines what we want our children to know in English/language arts and mathematics at any point in time from kindergarten through high school. Additionally, the intent of Common Core is for students to be career and college ready, and they are not mutually exclusive.
Under the local control provisions, the content, curriculum and instruction that bring our students to that crucial place are more locally controlled now than they have been in the last three decades. Curriculum is chosen by each school district, because it is the responsibility of superintendents, principals and educators to determine how the standards are to be met by their students — this is a critical point to keep in mind.
This is a very different approach in terms of classroom instruction, and there will be accountability measures built around that instruction that vary greatly from previous assessments. Schools will begin using Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exams, which will be fully implemented in spring 2015. These tests are conducted on computers or electronic tablets and will replace the existing English/language arts and mathematics state assessments for grades 3 through 8. This will allow educators to evaluate the real-world skills of their students with 21st century tools. Teachers will have access to information with which to measure student learning and will be able to determine if additional assistance is required.
Older assessments required us to teach to one right answer, and Common Core allows us to make sure our students can operate at a higher level of complexity and critical-thinking. The research is absolutely clear in the field of education — when you raise expectations and couple that with quality instruction, students rise to the challenge and performance increases.
Unfortunately, there is a wide misperception that Common Core is somehow the federal government over-reaching into the state’s right to provide education to our students. When in fact, it was a governor-driven initiative and its creation and implementation had nothing to do with the federal government. The genesis of Common Core was the National Governor’s Association coming together and realizing that if the world is flat, and this is truly a global economy, we should be able to compare California to Kentucky and know how they are doing relative to one another. In order to accomplish that, there must be a common starting place, i.e. Common Core.
A fundamental overhaul of education finance called the Local Control Funding Formula has also shifted control locally and has put a stop to the state telling schools how to spend their money and restores that control to the districts. Instead of categorically dictating how much may be used on different areas in a district’s budget, the money has been rolled into a base for each district to then decide how money is spent to best educate their students.
Now that we have the tools to make these important decisions, we need to remain accountable to ourselves, students, families and communities. The Local Control Accountability Plans will help us do just that. The El Dorado County Office of Education and individual school districts have developed these plans, which outline expectations regarding student outcomes and ascertain if resources will be available to make them a reality. EDCOE is partnering with districts and currently reviewing each of these plans.
Change is difficult, but our children deserve the very best. We are all working together to deliver excellence in education for the 21st century. I thank you for your support of our educators.
Jeremy M. Meyers is the El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools. The El Dorado County Office of Education supports 15 school districts in addition to the alternative instructional and post-secondary programs of El Dorado County and endeavors to deliver educational excellence through responsible, cost-effective centralized services to meet regulatory and educational standards in a safe, successful educational environment for all of our children… our most precious asset.