Parents quiz experts on new teaching and testing method

Common Core trial tests to be held in spring

Parents last week got a taste of what their kids will be learning in a new educational model known as Common Core State Standards.

The focus, according to presenter Jamie Marantz, is on depth of knowledge, rather than rote memorization or reciting facts.

Marantz, executive director of CORE Learning with the Alameda County Office of Education, told roughly 85 parents at Hearst Elementary that the new standards were designed to get children ready for college.

"They started with the end in mind," Marantz told the crowd. Designers, she said, asked what makes a student succeed in college -- then asked, "What skills do you need to do that?"

Parents also got some first-hand experience, spending about 20 minutes doing sample questions based on the Common Core curriculum.

One model used by Marantz asked questions to demonstrate different depth of knowledge. At the most basic level, students were asked to use their notes to describe three characteristics of plant cells.

A deeper depth-of-knowledge question would ask students to describe differences between plant and animal cells, and a third question, as an even deeper depth-of-knowledge example, would ask students to describe a model to represent key relationships between plant and animal cells based on cellular functions.

After answering questions, parents had some questions of their own about how Common Core will work.

One parent wanted to know how computers being used to score the tests will be able to interpret open-ended questions. For now, humans may be called in to do some scoring, according to Marantz and her co-speaker, Dr. Ingrid Roberson, also with the county office of education.

Another parent wanted to know how Common Core would be adapted for special-needs students. Roberson and Marantz said there are built-in accommodations and additional aids that can be programmed based on students' individual education plans, including text-to-speech for those with dyslexia and Braille tests.

Getting teachers up to speed to incorporate Common Core into their classes was another concern. Marantz described the process of implementing the new standards as "paving a road into a foggy place," and said the district, like those across the state, is investing time and money into training teachers.

While one parent worried about the new texts and other teaching materials needed for Common Core, Marantz said new textbooks are not necessary yet. As an example, she said a teacher might read a story about bats to an elementary school class, then move into bat biology, giving students informational texts as they need them.

The scores and what they will mean was a concern for some parents. This year will be a test of the test, according to Marantz and Roberson, to see what needs to be tweaked. They said refinements will continue, explaining that the test given in 2015 will likely be very different from the one in 2018.

Colleges, they said, are already taking Common Core into consideration, changing tests for college readiness like the ACT. The speakers said AP tests will change, too, incorporating deeper depth-of-knowledge questions.

But in response to one parent, there's no need to hire a tutor. Parents can ask, "what did the teacher ask you to do" or "what part of the article supports your answer," and the district is considering workshops with tools for parents who want to help their children. Some pointers are already on the California Department of Education website.

Roberson said some 40,000 questions will be tried out this spring as the test gets refined.


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Posted by Member name
a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 6, 2014 at 8:30 am

Some kids just don't do well in the testing mode period...This will eliminate having to cram to remember facts that under pressure a child could very easily panic and go blank for the answers. Lets hope this eliminates this situation too ???

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Posted by Sirena
a resident of Val Vista
on Feb 6, 2014 at 10:10 am

Bunch of nonsense!!! My daughter read a small book on Japanesse interment and she was asked why. The answer her teacher gave as an example was way different from mine. You can't compare the standards of the 1940's to today's standards. It is all about interpetation. How can you grade an interpertation in middle school about WWII when you have only read a 4 page paper? In part, histoy is taught so we won't make the same mistakes as in the past. Math is taught in such a difficult way, that I have to re-teach her so that she understands. End results the same, but far less steps. Hopefully parents will get involved in their childrens homework, so they can make a intelligent decision regarding common core.

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Posted by Guest
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

I skimmed through this article but from being a teacher myself, new textbooks will have to made in order to keep teachers from going insane.

"As an example, she said a teacher might read a story about bats to an elementary school class, then move into bat biology, giving students informational texts as they need them."

What California biology textbook has a whole section on bats? None that I'm aware of. These new common core standards are somewhat the exact same as the old ones, except there are some additions that will no doubt place more work on teaches and students. It will be interesting to see how these new standards will raise (if they even will) students' writing skills.

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Posted by Ben
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 6, 2014 at 11:08 am

You know what? The more I looked into it, like all things that are sinister, it’s packed in a nice, little box with a pretty little bow on top, but once you untie the bow, and start unpacking these so-called federal educational standards, you realize it’s all a pack of a lies.
It’s like a magician: In the right hand, he’s holding these sparkling uniform standards that will purportedly level the playing field. But in his left hand and behind his back, he’s holding the other components of this total education initiative. If it were simply standards, it would just be unconstitutional, but not horrible. But it’s so much more, and it’s the so much more that is truly horrible.
The government will tell you there is no central database that is part-and-parcel of Common Core, but that’s an outright lie. They're tracking over 400 data points, from parents’ political and religious affiliations to how much money they make, what the child eats, behaviors and attitudes toward sex…everything.
Of course its all tied to this administration giving out money if you implement it. Bribery in its truest form. And another way to collect data on its citizens.

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Posted by MAF
a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Feb 8, 2014 at 8:07 am

My son has ADD and Dyslexia- This common core way is not the best way to test him. Even with the "special needs" modifications. Please speak with experts in the area of ADD and Dyslexia to best help these children's needs.

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