On the heels of approving a new technology plan, board discusses tech financing options


Before the winter break, the IUSD Board of Education approved a three-year Technology Master Plan outlining long-term strategies for using high-tech tools to improve outcomes for students.

This week, the district’s technology chief and a consultant delivered a follow-up presentation to the board, exploring options for funding those ambitions with a technology bond.

IUSD’s new tech plan, which can be accessed here, shows how technology can be used to further instructional objectives, connecting specific curricular goals with measurable benchmarks. But it also acknowledges the stark reality that the district’s aging technology infrastructure is insufficient for 21st century teaching and learning.

Chief Technology Officer Brianne Ford told board members on Tuesday that IUSD currently spends about $5 million a year on technology, or roughly $165 per student. That leaves about $10 million to $12 million a year in unfunded needs.

“We have limited access to technology devices and wireless throughout the campuses,” she said, “and we’re heavily reliant on donations and one-time money to close the gaps periodically.”

Fully implementing the Technology Master Plan would cost an estimated $168.8 million over 10 years, or $257.3 million over 15 years, according to Ford. But IUSD’s current technology spending would only cover $62.7 million over 10 years and $96.6 million over 15 years, assuming a 1 percent annual increase in spending.

A technology bond could fill a significant portion of the gap.

Adam Bauer, principal with Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates, told the board that a 10-year bond at a tax rate of $19 per $100,000 of assessed value would net about $62 million for technology, while a 15-year bond at the same rate would bring in about $106 million. A bond at $24 per $100,000 of assessed value would generate about $79 million over 10 years, or $135 million over 15 years, Bauer said. And a bond with a tax rate of $29 per $100,000 of assessed value would generate $96 million over 10 years, or $164 million over 15 years.

Board members will ultimately decide whether to bring a technology bond before voters and under what terms. Passage would require at least 55 percent under Proposition 39, which limits the use of bond proceeds and requires a citizens’ oversight committee.

If you’d like to check out a PDF of the slide presentation, you can do so by clicking here. For more information on IUSD’s technology initiative, visit www.irvineforward.org.

Also Tuesday night:

  • Irvine Public Schools Foundation CEO Neda Eaton announced that IPSF raised $1.1 million during its Annual Campaign, which concluded on Dec. 31. That total will be matched by the City of Irvine, and because the foundation can include some funds that were not matched in the prior year, it is eligible to receive the entire $1.3 million pledged by the City for classroom support. Eaton thanked those who helped make the campaign a success, including the City, IUSD, the PTAs, the foundation’s corporate partners and the many parents and individuals who donated.
  • The Board of Education voted to name an elementary campus planned for the Portola Springs area. The school now officially known as Portola Springs Elementary will open at an interim site in the fall before moving to its permanent home for 2015-16.
  • Meeting a requirement of the state Education Code, board members voted to receive and file a financial audit of IUSD for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The audit was conducted by the independent firm Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Co.

State education officials partner with California PTA to offer Common Core resource for parents


What do the Common Core standards look like in the classroom?

Parents and community members can now read lesson samples and learn how to support the standards at home through a new online resource made available by the California Department of Education and the state PTA.

Both organizations are promoting a series of reader-friendly PDF brochures called “Parents’ Guide to Student Success.” Available in English and Spanish, these grade-level guides feature an overview of key Common Core lessons in English and math, suggestions for supporting learning at home and tips for parents on how to talk to teachers about their children’s academic progress.

The series, which was originally developed by the national PTA, can be accessed here.

“Parent Involvement Day is the perfect time to release these guides,” State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said last week, “because we know that well-informed, engaged parents can make all the difference in our work to give every student a world-class education. With modern standards and assessments and a new approach to school funding, we have a historic opportunity for serving these students, their families and our entire state.”

The Common Core standards, which happen to align nicely with IUSD’s own Continuous Improvement Efforts, were crafted to promote the knowledge and skills necessary for students to pursue competitive colleges and careers. They’ve been adopted by 45 other U.S. states, and they’re prompting big changes to California’s standardized testing program.

IUSD has more information about the standards on its Common Core webpage.


Board of Education approves first reading of three-year plan outlining technology goals


IUSD board members on Tuesday approved the first reading of a three-year Technology Master Plan detailing the district’s goals for leveraging technology to improve student outcomes.

Chief Technology Officer Brianne Ford led a comprehensive presentation on the document, which outlines current technology use, instructional objectives, staff development, infrastructure needs, costs and ongoing oversight. Guided by a 32-member steering committee, the plan, which has been in development since May 2012 and has already been shared with district leaders, post-secondary institutions and business leaders.

Specific curriculum goals are accompanied by measurable benchmarks and address the use of collaborative classroom tools, as well as problem-solving techniques, presentation skills, complex analysis and responsible use. Kris Linville, IUSD’s educational technology coordinator, said these goals were designed to align with another important document — IUSD’s Continuous Improvement Efforts, which outlines essential capacities for students and staff.

“As you go through the tech plan, you’ll notice that the essential capacities are reflected in all of the goals,” he said.

Linville added that professional learning is also embedded in the plan, ensuring teachers and staff will be capable and comfortable using 21st century tools.

While district leaders have acknowledged that technology will never take the place of great classroom teaching, there’s no doubt that its reach is expanding exponentially, requiring college students and career-seekers to possess a broader technological skill set. Meanwhile, schools and districts across the nation are utilizing web-based innovations to make the work of educators and support staff more efficient and effective.

Still, IUSD has some infrastructure obstacles to overcome if it hopes to realize its technological ambitions. Marty Danko, director of information services, told board members that the district’s data center is underpowered and network bandwidth is insufficient to support modern teaching and learning. Out at the school sites, he said, the majority of cabling is more than 17 years old, and most of the hardware is at least eight years old. Wireless equipment is also aging and unable to support current bandwidth needs.

IUSD has an ongoing technology budget of approximately $5 million, or about $160 per student. Upgrades, Ford said, will require additional resources.

The board is expected to approve a second reading and adoption of the tech plan at its December meeting. A technology steering committee — this group will comprise teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, students, business leaders and post-secondary partners — will ultimately be responsible for implementing and monitoring the plan, meeting quarterly starting in February 2014.

To access the plan, click here. To view the slide presentation from Tuesday’s meeting, click here, or on the photo above.


Superintendent addresses the Common Core, technology and growth in new video


Each year around this time, we like to sit down with IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker for a sort of state-of-the-district conversation. And there was no shortage of topics when we caught up with him for our interview in October.

In this five-and-a-half minute video, the superintendent discusses the new Common Core instructional standards, educational technology, the new state funding formula and the district’s rapid growth. Take a look.


Legislation swaps older STAR tests for modern assessments aligned with Common Core


Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that will replace the state’s older standardized testing system with more modern, computer-based assessments aligned with the new Common Core instructional standards.

Authored by Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla, D-Concord, the bill that was signed into law on Oct. 2 suspends most Standardized Testing and Reporting exams for the current school year, meaning IUSD students won’t take California Standards Tests in the spring. (More on that in a moment.) That will enable school districts to begin transitioning to the new California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress — or MAPP — assessments, which are slated to be administered during the 2014-15 school year.

“We are very pleased that the state has moved forward with new assessments that truly reflect the meaningful instruction that’s already taking place with the Common Core standards,” said Cassie Parham, IUSD’s assistant superintendent of education services. “These new standards take learning substantially deeper and align with our district’s own Continuous Improvement Efforts, and it’s critical that we not waste any more time with antiquated assessments.”

The new exams, developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, will feature computer-adaptive technology that can adjust questions based on previous right or wrong answers, providing much more precise feedback to indicate which skills and content areas have been mastered. Like the Common Core itself, the assessments will focus more on critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving.

“These are radically different tests and we will certainly need to build our technology infrastructure so that our students can learn to navigate this new environment,” IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker said. “Moving forward, the success of our students with Common Core and the Smarter Balanced assessments will depend on quality teaching as well as a strong technological backbone.”

Again, the new assessments won’t be rolled out until 2015, and the old standards tests will be shelved this year. But that doesn’t mean accountability and instructional data-gathering are on hold.

Parham said IUSD plans to work with leaders at each school to identify objective assessments for the current year that will help determine student placement in programs and courses. These will also emphasize critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving, she said.

“With the suspension of STAR testing, every school district in California now has an opportunity to engage more deeply with the Common Core State Standards,” she added.

IUSD educators weren’t the only ones praising the transition to more modern assessments.

“Faced with the choice of preparing California’s children for the future or continuing to cling to outdated policies of the past, our state’s leaders worked together and made the right choice for our students,” Tom Torlakson, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, said. “These new assessments represent a challenge for our education system — but a lifetime of opportunity for students. As a teacher, I’m thrilled to see our state and our schools once again leading the way.”

So what will the new California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (MAPP) program look like when its unveiled next year? Here’s a breakdown of the tests, courtesy of Parham:

  • Computer-adaptive Smarter Balanced Assessments in English-language arts and math for grades three through eight and 11 (These will be administered as field tests for the 2013-14 school year.)
  • Science assessments in grades five, eight and 10 (Current science assessments will continue to be used until replacement assessments are developed.)
  • The California Alternative Performance Assessment (CAPA) for grades two through 11 in ELA and math, and grades five, eight and 10 in science.
  • The Early Assessment Program (EAP) (For the 2013-14 school year, this will continue to be the 11th grade CST and augmented CST, which will continue to be voluntary for eligible 11th-graders. Assembly Bill 484 specifies that, beginning in 2014-15, the existing EAP may be replaced by the 11th grade Smarter Balanced assessment.)
  • The Primary Language Assessment (PLA) (Aligned to the old content standards, this can be administered by districts for English Learners and reclassified English Learners who are enrolled in dual immersion programs. AB 484 also requires the state superintendent to develop — and the state Board of Education to adopt — a new Common Core-aligned PLA no later than the 2016-17 school year, but that provision only applies if the Legislature appropriates funding for it in a future budget or bill.)

Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner announces decision to step down from school board


Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner, a member of the IUSD Board of Education since 2005 and this year’s president, has announced that he will step down from the school board, effective Nov. 21.

“Many of you will recognize that I have always aspired to be a highly visible and hands-on leader,” Huntley-Fenner said in a statement read during the Oct. 1 board meeting. “Recently, with the growth of my business and ongoing demands at home, I find that I am unable to sustain the level of engagement Irvine Unified deserves while continuing to meet my other obligations.”

Acknowledging it was a difficult decision that did not reflect any dissatisfaction with fellow board members or staff, Huntley-Fenner expressed confidence that IUSD “was well positioned to build on its strengths.”

“We have capable, energetic and visionary leadership in Superintendent Terry Walker,” he said. “Our new school board members are off to a fabulous start. Irvine Unified has come through the worst recession in recent memory on solid financial footing. Moreover, we have tremendous opportunities ahead, along with new revenue from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula and Irvine’s own Measure BB.”

Here’s the full text of Huntley-Fenner’s statement:

Dear Irvine Unified Friends and Colleagues:

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that I am resigning from the school board effective November 21, 2013.

Many of you will recognize that I have always aspired to be a highly visible and hands-on leader. Recently, with the growth of my business and ongoing demands at home, I find that I am unable to sustain the level of engagement Irvine Unified deserves while continuing to meet my other obligations.

In the end, this decision is based on a standard of commitment for public service. Rest assured it is not related to dissatisfaction with my fellow governing team members or the Irvine Unified staff. On the contrary, I have experienced immense personal satisfaction from my responsibilities as a district leader and from the close relationships I have established with many of you.

Although it is difficult to step away, in large part because I enjoy working with all of you, I am able to leave now because I am confident that IUSD is well positioned to build on its strengths. We have capable, energetic and visionary leadership in Superintendent Terry Walker. Our new school board members are off to a fabulous start. Irvine Unified has come through the worst recession in recent memory on solid financial footing. Moreover, we have tremendous opportunities ahead, along with new revenue from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula and Irvine’s own Measure BB.

I have had the pleasure of being part of a superb team beginning in 2004 and evolving through today. My work with IUSD has been morally uplifting, intellectually stimulating and ultimately a deeply satisfying and fulfilling experience. Through the years I have been on the board, I have always appreciated the positive feedback you’ve given me. This buoyed me through some of the most difficult times, including the implementation of budget cuts. Over the next few weeks, I intend to personally thank as many of you as I possibly can. Yet for now, please accept a general “thank you” for the honor of serving this community.

Whether you are a teacher or classified employee, a board member or a parent volunteer, a custodian or a principal, I will miss working with you in my IUSD family. You are the finest group of professionals I have had the honor to call colleagues. Thank you!

Please think of this as “à bientôt” rather than “sayonara.” Although I am stepping down from the board, I will remain a proud IUSD parent.

Sincerely,

Gavin Huntley-Fenner, Ph.D.
Irvine Unified School District Governing Board, President

 

Dr. Huntley-Fenner has brought a unique perspective to the five-member Board of Education as a scientist with a doctorate in brain and cognitive studies. He’s currently a managing consultant with Huntley-Fenner Advisors, his science and engineering consulting firm, and he’s published research regarding language acquisition and the early development of mathematics.

A founding member of the Irvine Education Partnership Fund Committee and a former member of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation’s executive board, Huntley-Fenner was appointed to fill a school board vacancy in January 2005. He served as board president in 2009 and 2013.

His imminent departure opens up a couple potential paths for his board colleagues, who must decide whether to appoint his replacement or hold a special election to fill the seat. We expect to hear more about that process during the board’s next meeting on Oct. 15.

Also on Tuesday night:

  • The board ratified an agreement between IUSD and Chapter 517 of the California School Employees Association’s Chapter, which represents the district’s classified workers. The agreement increases compensation by 2 percent and includes a one-time payment equal to 1.7 percent of each employee’s pay based on the 2013-14 salary schedule. Contract language also increases the district’s contribution for health benefits. Earlier in the evening, Superintendent Walker noted that IUSD and the Irvine Teachers Association had reached a similar tentative agreement that will be brought forth for a ratification vote at an upcoming board meeting.
  • Board members also approved and adopted a spending plan for funds that were specially allocated by the state for the implementation of the Common Core instructional standards. The plan was discussed at the board’s previous meeting on Sept. 17.

Board Briefs: School board weighs in on use of Common Core implementation funds


The Board of Education on Tuesday discussed how best to use $5.8 million in available state funding for the implementation of the California Common Core instructional standards.

The Common Core standards are part of a national movement aimed at promoting learning on a much deeper level, with a shift toward critical thinking, creativity, articulating positions and collaboration. (You can read more about the standards in this column by Superintendent Terry Walker.) To assist California’s schools with this very significant transition, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation over the summer earmarking $1.25 billion, or approximately $200 per student, to support the integration.

Just as there are specific rules on how these dollars must be spent, there are also a number of steps for school districts to follow, including a requirement that districts hold public meetings to explain and adopt their proposals.

On Tuesday night, Assistant Superintendent Cassie Parham shared a staff recommendation that would allocate approximately $2.4 million for professional training to grow the base of teacher leaders and mentors. Parham said an additional $1.8 million would pay for instructional materials, and about $1.6 million would pay for technology upgrades to aid the implementation and enable computer-based student assessments.

You can find the complete list of potential Common Core expenditures on the Board of Education’s Sept. 17 agenda. Note that the board is expected to vote on the recommendation at its next meeting on Oct. 1.

Here are some other highlights from Tuesday’s session:

  • Board members voted unanimously to authorize district staff to enter into a contract with TBWB Strategies, which will help IUSD communicate with the public about its technology needs and the implications of a potential technology bond. The Orange County Register has that story here. (Subscription required)
  • The board unanimously approved the submission of a request to the Irvine Public Schools Foundation outlining funding priorities for the 2013-14 school year.
  • To accommodate rapid growth resulting from new development on the district’s northern end, the board approved temporary revisions to Board Policy No. 7112, which covers school size. The temporary changes allow for a maximum enrollment of 1,200 at impacted elementary sites as new campuses are built.
  • The board approved attendance boundaries for new communities to the north, aligned with the recent decision to move the opening date of a planned elementary school in Portola Springs to the fall of 2015. The new boundary assignments will apply to future IUSD students and will not impact those who are currently enrolled.
  • Irvine Public Schools Foundation CEO Neda Eaton talked about the foundation’s upcoming annual campaign and presented the district with a poster-sized check made out to IUSD with two amounts: More than $1.44 million indicated how much IPSF contributed to the district in grants and donations for the 2012-13 school year, and $1.72 million represented the overall value of IPSF’s enrichment programs. (Eaton is pictured in the photo with Board of Education President Dr. Gavin Huntley-Fenner and Superintendent Walker.)
  • For its efforts to promote energy conservation and environmental sustainability, IUSD was also presented with the Emerald Award by the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Orange County. Chamber President Jun Jao specifically praised the environmental benefits of the district’s solar initiative, which has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual savings and served as the basis for lessons on solar power.

Irvine students continue to shine on California Standards Tests


IUSD students continue to outpace their county and state counterparts on standards tests, according to the latest batch of scores released this month by the California Department of Education.

Serving as the cornerstone of the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, California Standards Tests — or CSTs for short — are taken in the spring to measure student knowledge of the state’s content standards in grades two through 11. In each subject, scores are divided into five levels of achievement: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic and far below basic.

Results made public on Aug. 8 reveal that 83 percent of IUSD students scored in the proficient and advanced ranges in English language arts in 2013, and 81.4 percent did the same in math. Statewide, 56.4 percent were proficient or better in English and 52.1 percent met this benchmark in math. In Orange County, the proficiency rates were 64.6 percent for English and 60.8 percent for math.

Though IUSD’s scores plot an upward trajectory over the long-term, year-over-year scores for each grade and content area were relatively flat in 2013, reflecting a broader trend throughout the state. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson cited “ongoing budget reductions and the transition to the Common Core State Standards” as the primary reasons.

“As you would expect for a school system in transition, results varied from grade to grade, subject to subject, and school to school,” Torlakson said, “but the big picture is one of remarkable resilience despite the challenges.”

“While we all want to see California’s progress continue,” he said, “these results show that in the midst of change and uncertainty, teachers and schools kept their focus on students and learning. That’s a testament to the depth of their commitment to their students and the future of our state.”

Here’s what else the local results show:

•  The percentage of IUSD students scoring proficient or advanced in English language arts in 2013 ranged from 73 percent in 11th grade to 88 percent in fourth grade. Grades nine, 10 and 11 increased their scores by one percentage point from 2012. Grades five through eight decreased by a percentage point each, while grades two and four decreased by three percentage points each. Third-grade English scores remained the same.

•  Math scores ranged from 58 percent proficient and advanced for 11th-graders to 90 percent for eighth-graders. (Keep in mind that these scores were aggregated from different tests for grades eight through 11.) Math scores for grades five, eight, nine and 11 improved slightly, rising 2 to 4 points, while scores for grades two, three, seven and 10 declined slightly, dropping a point or two. Scores for grades four and six were unchanged from 2012.

•  IUSD students excelled on grade-level science tests, with 88 percent of fifth-graders, 92 percent of eighth-graders and 82 percent of tenth-graders scoring in the proficient or advanced ranges.

•  A preliminary look at the achievement gap shows progress by IUSD’s Hispanic students over a five-year period, but more work must be done to close gaps among subgroups.

Though big changes are coming as a result of Common Core implementation, CST scores have weighed heavily in the state’s annual accountability index and in the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. For school-level reports or to access specific STAR results from districts and counties around the state, click here.

By the way, the Orange County Register also has a story about IUSD’s CST scores here. (Subscription required.)


IUSD adopts budget based on state plan that’s complicated but ultimately positive for schools


The IUSD Board of Education voted to adopt a budget for the 2013-14 school year on Tuesday night, and for the first time in years the forecast for Irvine and other districts looked relatively bright.

John Fogarty, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, said IUSD’s spending plan was based on the latest projections out of Sacramento, where Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature recently reached agreement on a brand new funding formula for K-12 education.

You may remember that the old Revenue Limit system granted each district a base level of per-student funding along with a raft of categorical payments that were tied to specific programs. The new model provides an increased base level of funding while allocating additional dollars to help support English-language learners, students in foster care and students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. Fogarty said it’s expected to generate approximately $315 per student in additional revenues for IUSD.

Though there are a number of details to be revealed, including the unveiling of a new accountability system, the extra funding would appear to begin an era of recovery for California’s public schools after years of devastating cuts.

“This is a much better budget picture than we’ve seen in many years,” Fogarty said.

At the same time, he said, a convoluted accounting requirement from the state will prompt IUSD to dig into its reserves for one more year. Here’s why:

During the economic downturn, Irvine fell into an alternate funding formula known as Basic Aid, in which a district is funded by its own property taxes. This usually means more revenue, but in the interest of equity, the state decided in 2009 that it would annually scoop away any extra funding from Basic Aid districts. Because California waits a year to take these dollars, IUSD will be stripped of about $10 million for the 2012-13 school year sometime in 2013-14, Fogarty said.

With that in mind, the spending plan approved for IUSD on Tuesday night outlines $233.2 million worth of expenditures – both restricted and unrestricted – against $225.7 million worth of total revenue. The difference will be offset by reserve set-asides, and Fogarty predicted that positive ending balances will return in 2014-15 and 2015-16, marking the end of deficit spending. (Click on the graphic above to view his presentation.)

Here are some other takeaways from Tuesday’s budget discussion:

•  Unlike the previous Revenue Limit funding model, the state is now differentiating base per-student funding depending on student grade levels. In addition to that base, supplemental funding equal to 20 percent of each student’s base grant will be allocated to support English learners, students from low-income families and those in foster care. A separate concentration grant will benefit districts in which at least 55 percent of students meet the above criteria.

•  Fogarty cautioned that challenges remain, including implementation of the new Local Control Funding Formula and increases in health care costs.

•  IUSD could also fall in and out of Basic Aid over the next few years as new residential developments and an influx of new students shake up revenue calculations, Fogarty said. The district is projecting 998 new students this year, followed by 1,437 in 2014-15 and 1,941 in 2015-16.

•  Revenue in California is up about $4.5 billion through April, partly as a result of the passage of Proposition 30. The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office appears to be more optimistic about new revenue than Governor Brown, who is taking a more conservative approach, Fogarty said.

•  The governor and the Legislature have agreed to allocate $1.25 billion to help school districts implement the new Common Core instructional standards. Districts will be asked to develop specific plans for utilizing these funds.


Superintendent: Common Core standards will promote a deeper understanding of key subjects


BY TERRY L. WALKER, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS

The most sweeping educational reform of the nation’s public schools is on its way, and it happens to align nicely with the direction the Irvine Unified School District is already heading.

Set to be implemented over the next two years, the California Common Core standards are part of a national movement that will bring focus and clarity to the work of educators. More to the point, they were thoughtfully crafted to promote understanding at a deeper conceptual level, placing an emphasis on thinking critically and creatively, articulating positions, taking intellectual risks and collaborating effectively.

That’s a pronounced shift from the accountability and assessment movement that began in the 1990s, leading us through an era that was defined as much by its high-stakes tests as it was by a vast curriculum that often feels a mile wide and an inch deep. I am proud to say that our staff and students performed exceptionally well in these years, and our schools posted some of the state’s highest assessment scores. At the same time, we never lost sight of our primary objective, which is to empower students with the skills, knowledge and values necessary to become leaders in the 21st century.

And that’s really what the California Common Core is about. It’s about teaching our students to investigate, collaborate and discover. It’s about solving real-world problems and learning multiple paths to each solution. It’s about cultivating diverse skills and nurturing talents that transcend the capacity of existing technologies. It’s about taking our work with students a step further and substantially deeper, and the IUSD teachers who have given the Common Core an early test-drive have been overwhelmingly in favor as they are directly aligned with our own district-adopted Continuous Improvement Efforts. (We encourage parents, as partners in supporting our students, to review the latter document because it frames our vision for student learning and guides our instructional practices in supporting that vision.)

So what will the Common Core standards look like at your child’s school?

Hands-on activities and collaborative exercises will be much more prevalent, and English courses will see a shift toward nonfiction texts. Media skills will be integrated into everyday lessons, writing will be shared with outside audiences and next-generation assessments will evaluate higher order processes. (More on those assessments in a moment.)

Math classes will teach fewer concepts, but they will reach new depths in exploring those concepts. Students will be challenged with more real-world applications and fewer theoretical equations, and there will be a greater emphasis on learning the process rather than merely providing the correct answer. Simply put, it will no longer be enough to know that 5 times 4 equals 20; students will need to understand why 5 times 4 is 20 before they move on to more complex work.

Naturally, we will need to introduce new instructional materials relevant to Common Core, and the state must adopt new assessments that promote accountability. Much of the latter work is already underway, including the development of “Smarter Balanced Assessments” for English and math. These exams will feature computer-adaptive technology that adjusts the difficulty of questions based on previous right or wrong answers, generating individualized feedback that will indicate which skills have been mastered by each student.

IUSD has written some incredible success stories over the course of its four decades, and each one is a reflection of its teachers, parents, students and staff. This latest curricular transition provides yet another opportunity for our district to shine. The California Common Core is more than just a state directive; it is a pedagogical shift that is worthy of our full commitment because these new standards embody the essential capacities our students will need to thrive in the 21st century. Irvine Unified begins this transition with a firm confidence that our organization has the talent and dedication for the exciting journey ahead.