Rather than hiring outside consultants, Arcadia Unified is using a team of talented educators from within to make the crucial transition to the new Common Core State Standards.
Over the next two years, the state is allocating funding to assist districts in making the change to the Standards, which align curricula across 46 states and the District of Columbia. Arcadia Unified is receiving $1.9 million over 2013-14 and 2014-15 to proceed with its implementation of the Common Core.
"The idea was to use the funding to identify and support teachers who could serve as mentors and coaches to their colleagues as everyone figures out how the implementation of the Common Core Standards will affect classroom teaching," said AUSD Superintendent Dr. Joel Shawn. "Those teachers serving as Common Core Coaches know our culture of high performance, our schools, and our staff and will be able to provide sustainable classroom support as we make this big shift."
In addition to hiring the mentor coaches, the District will also use the funding to purchase instructional materials and send staff to conferences for further professional development and training related to the Common Core.
The Common Core State Standards emphasize critical thinking and writing across all subject areas and dramatically narrow the number of standards so that teachers can provide more in-depth instruction and promote better understanding within an important core of standards that will prepare students with 21st century skills.
“Arcadia Unified is enthusiastic about the new standards because of what it means for not only the students of Arcadia, but those across the country,” said AUSD Board of Education President Cung Nguyen. “Our District has always been proactive about promoting critical thinking in our classrooms and teaching our students to be effective learners, so I have no doubt that this will be a successful transition.”
A team of 13 AUSD teachers were selected to conduct research on Common Core, determine the District’s needs for the transition, filter resources for their colleagues and help build instructional materials and textbooks for the switch.
“Instead of bringing in consultants or sending our teachers to outside trainings, we found it important to provide our teachers with individuals who can give them the classroom support they need to provide lessons that are in line with Common Core,” said AUSD Deputy Superintendent of Educational Services David Vannasdall. “Our District has been moving toward the core principles of these new standards for several years.”
School officials stress to parents that once the transition is complete, homework and other assignments may look different from what students are currently taking home.
“Homework may look different with the Common Core because we’re facilitating deeper understanding that doesn’t always require worksheets and the types of assignments that parents typically see their kids bringing home,” Vannasdall said. “Students may have to read a chapter of a book, watch a film clip or work on just a few complex math problems so that they’re ready to dig deeper into the issue when they come to class the next day.”
The District will host a Special Board of Education meeting on Oct. 22 to discuss Common Core, give the community the opportunity to review new instructional materials and learn more about the transition.