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Keeping Up With Common Core

Useful updates and information for education leaders… brought to you by EdSource

This Common Core update web page is produced in conjunction with our ‘Leading Change’ newsletter, which focuses on the range of new California academic standards — from the Common Core standards in English language arts and math, to the Next Generation Science Standards and the history-social science standards — as well as how schools are held accountable for measuring progress on them. You can subscribe to the newsletter here to receive this information via email. 

February 17, 2018

Personalized learning and resources for Black History Month

Theresa Harrington for EdSource

Students work on laptop computers.

This month, we talked to Elizabeth Steiner, a RAND researcher who has studied personalized learning in schools across the country that have received Next Generation Learning Challenge grants, including 13 in California.

We are also providing a list of California schools involved in the study, along with six more in Oakland that received grants last year. The grants were to schools that offered student-centered, “blended” instruction” that included digital media.

And, we are providing free lesson plans and other Black History Month resources.

Jury is still out on personalized learning approaches taking hold in California and across the country, research finds

Credit: Courtesy of Summit Public Schools

Summit Public Schools has received a Next Generation Learning Challenge grant to expand personalized learning.

As high schools throughout California and the country try new ways to engage and educate students such as personalized learning, which tailors instruction to the student’s learning needs and interests, researchers say many innovations are still being evaluated and studied.

Researcher Elizabeth Steiner and her colleagues at the RAND Corporation recently compared 40 personalized learning schools nationwide, including 12 in California, to more traditional schools. All of the 40 schools in the study received Next Generation Learning Challenge grants to help them pursue innovative strategies. The grants were aimed at helping schools that were interested in designing new school models and in broadly sharing “successes, lessons learned, and advice to support the growth of better school designs across the nation.”

“This is a very different way of teaching and learning,” Steiner said, adding that there is not widespread agreement “in the field” about what “personalized learning” means. However, the RAND researchers identified four personalized learning practices that were present in all the NGLC grant schools.

Read more

More than a dozen California schools have received grants that foster innovative programs

Credit: Courtesy of Design Tech High School

Design Tech High School received a Next Generation Learning Challenge grant.

The RAND personalized learning study referenced above was based on 40 schools that received Next Generation Learning Challenge grants.

The “New Designs for School” grants were awarded to schools across the country that wanted to create new school models that allowed students to work at their own pace and that addressed students’ individual needs.

We have compiled a list of the 18 schools in California that have received the grants.

Read more

Black History Month resources for schools

A recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center finds that schools are failing to teach the history of slavery and the civil rights movement in the United States effectively (you can test your own knowledge here). Teaching resources for February’s month-long recognition of Black History Month abound online, and can be a useful resource. Here are a selection of free lesson plans and multi-media resources:

  • Scholastic offers “28 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month” with links to source material such as an online photo archive of civil rights marchers, and an audio recording of author Maya Angelou reading her poetry.
  • National Education Association offers a curated set of lesson plans for Black History Month for grades K-12, including links to original slave narratives and a lesson on the Harlem Renaissance that connects to audio clips of artists like Duke Ellington.
  • The story of Ruby Bridges and her courageous stance against school segregation is especially resonant with young students. In my own child’s classroom, students strongly identified with the first-grader who had to be escorted to school by U.S. Marshals. Several organizations offer source material and lesson plans centered around Bridges, including this one from Stanford University.

EdSource to expand coverage of East Bay schools

Dear EdSource Reader,

EdSource is pleased to announce that it will be expanding its coverage of East Bay school districts, with a focus on Oakland and West Contra Costa Unified, which includes the city of Richmond. The expansion is a response to the need for more reporting on Bay Area schools, which is especially acute in districts like West Contra Costa and Oakland.

EdSource will continue to focus on the entire state of California. But we are based in downtown Oakland, and have long sought to cover schools in the region where we live and work more intensively, especially because they face many of the same challenges as school districts of similar size and student populations around the state. Both districts are implementing a range of reforms that deserve more attention.

Read more

December 21, 2017

Dropout prevention and good news on standards implementation

Happy holidays from EdSource! We hope 2018 has great things in store for you and your community.

This month, we talked to Russell Rumberger, an expert on the factors that lead to students dropping out of school. And, we’re highlighting a report that brings some good news to close out the year in the way math and English standards are being implemented in California schools, along with good news for four county offices of education and four districts that are each receiving grants to fund bilingual teacher preparation. Finally, if you want to know how the U.S. compares to top-performing countries in teacher preparation and recruitment, we’re including a webinar series that highlights research on these topics.

Let us know what you think. Enjoy!

Theresa Harrington and Erin Brownfield

State Standards strong in California, report says

Math and English Language Arts and literacy standards remain strong in California and 23 other states that have reviewed and revised them since adopting the Common Core standards, according to a report by the nonprofit Achieve.

The report, Strong Standards: A Review of Changes to State Standards Since the Common Core, found California and most of the other states studied maintained rigorous standards and expectations aimed at graduating students who are college- and career-ready after high school.

Read more

Grants aim to increase California’s supply of bilingual teachers

The California Department of Education has awarded Bilingual Teacher Professional Development grants – each in the amount of $625,000 – to four school districts and four county offices of education throughout the state.

The grants were awarded to the Anaheim Union High School District, Oak Grove School District, Patterson Joint Unified School District, Riverside Unified School District, and to the Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Luis Obispo county offices of education.

The funding is expected to increase the numbers of bilingual teachers by providing training to teams of teachers, principals, and instructional assistants. The program aims to increase the number of  teachers who obtain a bilingual authorization.

Read more

Webinar series focuses on the world’s best in education to empower educators

Over the past four months, the National Center on Education and the Economy, or NCEE, has hosted an “Empowered Educators” webinar series based on an international comparative study of teachers and teaching quality in top-performing education systems around the world. The programs, which feature research led by Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute over a three-year period, are now available online.

Read more

September 21, 2017

Common Core insights, improving 5th-grade math achievement, and Hispanic Heritage Month

Courtesy of Gabriela Gonzalez

Gabriela Gonzalez, who teaches 2nd grade in the Los Angeles area, shares her advice about Common Core instruction in a blog and at workshops.

This month, EdSource published a Q&A with 2nd-grade teacher Gabriela Orozco Gonzalez, who shares Common Core tips and insights from her classroom. Gonzalez mostly teaches students who, like her, came to school speaking a language other than English. She is especially focused on strategies to enhance their literacy skills.

Also, we’re highlighting an effort in Tulare County to improve 5th-grade math achievement in a network of schools using “improvement science” principles. And, we’ve compiled resources for educators to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Let us know what you think. Enjoy!

Tulare County Office of Education leads 5th-grade math improvement project

Courtesy of the Tulare County Office of Education

Sycamore Valley Elementary 5th-grader Mia Angulo has a “can-do” attitude toward math. Her school is participating in a math improvement project led by the Tulare County Office of Education that stresses a “growth mindset.”

One burning question for many 5th-grade teachers in Tulare County districts is: Can they triple students’ math proficiency on standardized test scores in four years?

“It’s a lofty goal, considering the state average,” said Shelah Feldstein, a Tulare County Office of Education math staff development and curriculum specialist who is helping to spearhead a project that aims to improve 5th-grade math achievement in a network of area schools and districts.

The Central Valley Networked Improvement Communities, known as CVNIC, include 1,091 students and 41 teachers across 15 schools in eight school districts: Burton School District in Porterville, the Cutler-Orosi Joint School District in Orosi, Dinuba Unified, Exeter Unified, Tulare City School District, Visalia Unified, and the Sycamore Valley Academy charter school and Valley Life Charter Schools in Visalia.

Read more

September kicks off National Hispanic Heritage Month

A month-long celebration of Hispanic heritage, which started on September 15, continues through October 15 nationwide. September 15 was chosen as the kick-off date because it is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days near that date.

More than 50.5 million people identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino on the 2010 U.S. Census. In California, students identifying as Hispanic or Latino made up about 54 percent of public school students in 2015-16 according to the California Department of Education — by far the largest ethnic group. The percentage of classroom teachers who are Hispanic, however, is far lower.

The following resources can help schools and teachers plan for Hispanic Heritage Month with lesson plans and cultural activities, some of which are tied to Common Core standards:

  • Teacher magazine has posted a month of ideas for celebrating and learning about Hispanic heritage in grades 3-8, such as learning about the life of baseball legend Roberto Clemente through on online virtual exhibition. The magazine also provides a Hispanic heritage leveled book list starting at PreK up to grade 8.
  • The Library of Congress has collected numerous primary source materials that can be used in teaching about Hispanic history in the United States. Resources include historic photos and sound recordings, multimedia resources, a teaching guide, lesson plans and a curated set of archival materials including a presentation on the Mexican-American immigrant experience. Click here for the overview of available resources.
  • For older students, the National Education Association has collected a set of lesson plans, multi-media presentations, quizzes, and other resources at this link. Lesson plans are tied to standards.

July, 2017

Improving math instructionsummer learning resources, and a possible later school start time

Courtesy of Tracy Zager

Tracy Zager, a former 4th-grade teacher who now coaches math teachers, has written a book highlighting effective instructional strategies.

This month, EdSource published a Q&A with author and former 4th-grade teacher Tracy Johnston Zager, who has released a new book called “Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms.” It includes the best strategies for teaching math and gives readers a glimpse of who’s who among innovative math teaching gurus in California.

Also, we’ve compiled summer science, math and reading resources for families and, we’re reporting on a bill that could require all middle and high schools in California to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

To keep up with EdSource stories produced each week, check out “This Week in California Education,” EdSource’s must-listen-to podcast. Let us know what you think.

Theresa Harrington and Erin Brownfield

Teens, you’ll want to wake up for this: Later school start time bill moves forward

Alison Yin for EdSource

SB 328 would require all middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to address health issues related to teen sleep deprivation.

A ban on starting regular school classes earlier than 8:30 a.m. in all California middle and high schools will come up for a vote next month in an Assembly committee.

The bill passed the Assembly Education Committee last week and must clear the Assembly Appropriations Committee before it goes to the full Assembly. If passed and signed by the governor, the bill would make California the first state in the country to adopt a ban on early start times in secondary schools.

In May, the Senate approved the bill in a 23-13 vote. If passed, the bill wouldn’t go into effect for two years, to give schools and districts time to plan for it. Small, rural districts could apply for waivers for up to two years, if the new law would pose a hardship for them.

The bill is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, California State PTA, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, California Federation of Teachers, California Sleep Society and several hospitals, school districts and student advocacy groups.

Read more

Summer science, math and reading resources

Alison Yin for EdSource

Children can create science-related projects at home during the summer.

To help prevent summer learning loss, many organizations such as the nonprofit Project Lead the Way, California Mathematics Council and Storyline Online offer fun activities and resources.

Click here for resources in math, science and reading that could be useful for parents and children during summer break – or even during the school year.

Students can lose the equivalent of up to two months of grade-level math and science skills over the summer if they don’t keep their brains active, according to Project Lead the Way.

Read more

State Board of Education approves English Learner Roadmap

Credit: Pat Maio/EdSource

Fourth-grade English learner students at Wilson Elementary School in Sanger, Calif.

To help California’s more than 1.3 million English learners navigate through the public school system, the State Board of Education has approved an “English Learner Roadmap.”

The Roadmap is the first new language policy adopted in nearly two decades to serve the one in four public school students throughout the state who are classified as English learners. It is expected to help schools in the more than 1,000 districts statewide to meet updated state and federal education requirements and laws.

Approved last week, the Roadmap aims to help English learner students and their parents know what courses, programs and services are available to them. It was created partially in response to the passage of Proposition 58 last year, which eliminated some legal barriers to bilingual education.

Read more

June, 2017

Closing the Achievement Gap, Teacher Quality and LGBTQ Pride Month

Now that students have finished the third year of Common Core-aligned standardized tests in math and English language arts, a Public Policy Institute of California report warns that results from the first two years show low-income students and English learners are falling further behind their English-fluent, wealthier peers.

Also, education expert Linda Darling-Hammond and an international team of researchers just finished up a three-year study examining how countries that outperform the U.S. on internationally benchmarked tests provide high-quality teaching to every child. And you’ll find resources to help educators highlight LGBTQ Pride Month, which can be used year-round to support students, help prevent bullying and improve school climate.

To keep up with EdSource stories produced each week, listen to “This Week in California Education,” EdSource’s new podcast. Check it out and  let us know what you think.

Theresa Harrington and Erin Brownfield

What can U.S. schools learn from top education systems in other countries?

Courtesy of BASIS Silicon Valley/Mitch Aidelbaum

A teacher works with students at the BASIS Independent School of Silicon Valley school, which uses an internationally benchmarked test for 15-year-olds to see how students measure up to peers worldwide.

To prepare students for an increasingly interconnected and global society, many countries have revamped their education systems to provide students with a 21st century education that has produced higher achievement and greater equity than U.S. schools, a new study has found.

The study of teaching quality in the world’s top-performing education systems reveals that one of the most important strategies to achieve these results is developing policies to ensure that every student receives high-quality teaching.

Called “Empowered Educators,” the three-year study was led by education researcher Linda Darling-Hammond of the Learning Policy Institute, along with an international team of education researchers, with the support of the Center on International Benchmarking at the National Center on Education and the Economy, or NCEE. It investigated the states of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia, the provinces of Alberta and Ontario in Canada, the province of Shanghai in China, and the countries Singapore and Finland.

Read more

Resources for LGBTQ Pride Month  (or any month)

The school year may be over, but since June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Pride Month in honor of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, it’s an appropriate time for a roundup of resources for schools and classrooms.  According to the Anti-Defamation League, LGBTQ history “is American history and should be integrated into the curriculum throughout the school year.”

  • The Anti-Defamation League offers a set of curricula, recommended books and other resources on topics such as marriage equality, LGBTQ history, transgender students, bullying and hate-crime prevention available at no cost at this link. Resources include standards-based downloadable lesson plans organized by grade level.
  • The nonprofit LGBTQ education advocacy group GLSEN, which has chapters in Los Angeles and San Diego, offers many resources for teachers and students, including lesson plans, book recommendations, a toolkit, a blog with frequent posts about LGBTQ students and school supports for them and a research-focused Twitter feed.
  • Facing History and Ourselves, an international education and professional development nonprofit, has an extensive selection of training and curricular resources on bullying and ostracism, many related to LGBTQ and gender identity issues.
  • Three organizations (Advocates for Youth, Answer at Rutgers University, and Youth Tech Health) recently launched an initiative called AMAZE that provides animated YouTube videos geared to 10-14 year olds on topics such as  gender expressionsexual orientation, and gender identity. The project also provides educators with tips, conversation starters and other resources at this link.
  • The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Initiative also offers a wealth of resources such as lesson plans and staff training materials. Particularly helpful are their “Answering Challenging Questions” and “LGBTQ Definitions” sections for adults and children.


More than 200 titles added to state’s recommended literature list

The California Department of Education has added 285 award-winning titles to its Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list, which includes more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and teens.

The online list includes fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama. The recent additions include multilingual authors and increase the stories available about diverse people and lifestyles.

Literature in the interactive database may be searched by author, title, annotation, illustrator, translator, subject, grade level or language. Go here for more information and to access the list.

New updates available regarding English language proficiency tests

California is developing new English language proficiency assessments called  English Language Proficiency Assessments for California, or ELPAC, which will be administered for the first time in spring 2018.

Those interested in finding out more about the new assessments can sign up to receive the California Department of Education’s new monthly “ELPAC Update,” which will include information on upcoming fall training sessions and opportunities for educators to be involved in the test design and pilot process in 2017–18.

Subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to subscribe-elpac@mlist.cde.ca.gov.

New research from WestEd on how teachers choose instructional materials

With funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, WestEd is exploring how teachers make decisions about which instructional materials to use in their classrooms to inform efforts aimed at improving the quality and consistency of instructional materials across the country. Although WestEd conducted focus groups with teachers in six cities outside California, educators here will find the reports useful.

Three briefs examine how teachers in Seattle, Denver, Boston, New Orleans, Tampa and Raleigh obtain, assess the quality of, choose and supplement instructional materials:

May, 2017

Instructional improvement, immigration rights and equity

High school students in a classroom

Courtesy of AIR

High school students in a classroom

As high school math teachers in California strive to improve student achievement, they may be interested to hear about a network of educators  studying ways to make math more interesting. Kirk Walters, a former math teacher from San Bernardino High who is now a researcher with the American Institutes for Research, talked to EdSource about how California teachers could set up their own networks to try out new instructional strategies and share what worked and what didn’t. Three keys to engage students, he said, are: teacher excitement and curiosity about their subject matter, exploring underlying concepts and pushing students to explain their answers, and presenting teens with novel problems where the answers aren’t immediately apparent.

Also this month, education leader Carl Cohn said fears about immigration rights and the possibility of deportation among families with undocumented members heighten the need for

Carl Cohn, executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence

Credit: Courtesy of Claremont Graduate University

Carl Cohn, executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence

schools to provide safe spaces for students and to consider offering services such as counseling or other resources.

And, a new report prepared by a team of researchers who are members of a Local Control Funding Formula Research Collaborative shows some districts aren’t spending their targeted Local Control funding in ways that will specifically help low-income students, foster youth and English learners.

Have you listened to “This Week in California Education,” EdSource’s new podcast yet?  We are adding new features and voices every week to give you more insight into our stories, so subscribe through iTunes or Stitcher and let us know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

Theresa Harrington and Erin Brownfield


Student achievement and test score growth on Smarter Balanced assessments

Students discuss work in chemistry class at Skyline High in Oakland.

Credit: Alison Yin / EdSource (2014)

Students discuss work in class.

A recent Public Policy Institute of California study shows that on average California school children did much better in 2015-16 than they did in 2014-15 on the Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math.

Results for English Learners and low-income students, however, show achievement gaps are not closing. The report concludes that districts with a large number of struggling students may need more guidance from the state and suggests they look to schools and districts that have had greater success with high-need students for improvement ideas. Here are some of the findings:

  • About 49 percent of students met standards in English Language Arts in 2016, while 37 percent met the standard in mathematics.  These percentages were somewhat lower than those in 14 other large states using the Smarter Balanced assessments, but the increases in achievement levels from the previous year were nearly twice as large in California, which grew by 9 percentage points, compared to an average 5 percentage point growth in the other states.
  • The percentage of low-income students and English Learners meeting the standards increased, but these increases were not at fast enough rates to close substantial achievement gaps with higher income students who are fluent in English.
  • Fewer students in districts where more than 55 percent of students are from low income families or are English Learners met the standards on the state tests. About 33 percent of students met the standards in those districts, compared to about 60 percent for districts with fewer high-need students.
  • Most districts saw similar growth regardless of their percentages of disadvantaged students. But districts where students scored low and did not show significant growth in scores from one year to the next tended to have higher percentages of high-need students. These results were considered “especially troubling because they indicate that disadvantaged students are falling further behind.”

Read the entire report here.

May is National Foster Care Awareness Month

With passage of the Local Control Funding Formula, California became the first state to require schools to consider how best to serve a small subset of at-risk students: youth in foster care.According to 2016 California Department of Education data, in English language arts, 56.2 percent of foster students did not meet standards on the Smarter Balanced tests (compared to 30.5 percent of  non-foster students) and for mathematics, 64 percent of foster students did not meet standards (compared to 37.3 percent of non-foster students).

The following resources provide more information about the state’s nearly 70,000 foster youth, as well as some strategies for schools and districts:

  • In 2016, The CDE released accountability data on how foster youth performed in the 2014-15 school year. You can search for data broken down by school, district or county on Data Quest at this link. Select “foster” under the Subject pulldown menu.
  • The National Center for Youth Law has released a report on how foster youth are faring under local control, which is available at this link.  The report includes promising and innovative examples of district approaches to including foster youth in LCAPs.
  • The Alliance for Children’s Rights has created a helpful guide to improving education outcomes for California children in foster care. Updated in late 2016, the Foster Youth Education Toolkit includes step-by-step procedures and implementation tools to help districts engage in best practices when educating foster youth.


New studies suggest choice of curriculum and textbooks can make a big difference for students

Have you ever wondered if textbook choice really makes a difference? Choosing better curriculum materials can indeed lead to gains in student achievement, according to a report in the The 74. “Multiple research studies meeting the highest bar for methodological rigor find substantial learning impacts from the adoption of specific curricula. The impact on student learning can be profound,” wrote Johns Hopkins University’s David Steiner in a review of research. Read more

‘Nature Bowl’ competition connects environmental awareness and new science standards

A science teaching idea that could spread: Third- to sixth-graders from 22 schools in the Sacramento region recently competed in an annual science-based educational program, Nature Bowl XXXII. Students learned about the environment while building teamwork skills, according to the Sacramento Bee. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife coordinates the event and the program curriculum corresponds with California’s Next Generation Science Standards. Read more

April 25, 2017

Graduation rates rise, but questions about equity remain

California got some good news this month: high school graduation rates ticked up for the seventh year in a row to 83.2 percent (though some significant achievement gaps are still in place). In addition, the dropout rate fell to less than 10 percent, down from 16.6 percent in 2010.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson attributed the improvement to recent reforms, including the Local Control Funding Formula. But, as EdSource’s John Fensterwald reports, not everyone is such an ardent fan of local control. Student advocates such as the nonprofit Education Trust–West are calling for more transparency to allow the public to follow the money. Without improved accountability, they say, all we can do is “wonder whether this massive public experiment and investment is paying off.”

EdSource has created a database that families and educators can use to look up how well their districts and schools are doing in getting students their diplomas within four years. They can also search for dropout rates and measurements of how many students are taking more than four years to finish high school. Here is the link to search district by districtUse this link to research individual high schools.

Noted educator and lecturer Jeff Duncan-Andrade says the state can’t rely on its funding formula alone to achieve equity for all California students. Instead, he says in an EdSource Q and A that educators and society must view all the state’s children as “our children” and must ensure that we are meeting their diverse needs.

And for a new way to follow these and other important education issues, we invite you to listen to “This Week in California Education,” EdSource’s new podcast. Once you do, let us know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

Theresa Harrington and Erin Brownfield


“Mathematical Mindsets” online math course for teachers

The YouCubed math center at Stanford University, formed by well-known Stanford professor and math expert Jo Boaler, is offering a new online course for math teachers beginning June 5.

The course, designed for math teachers working with students from kindergarten through college, is based on Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindsets. Read an EdSource Q and A with Boaler about her book here. It is Common Core-aligned and includes research on the best ways children and adults learn math. It also explains instructional approaches educators can use to foster a growth mindset in their students.

Boaler demonstrates techniques she used to teach math to 6th-and 7th-graders, which raised their test scores by 50 percent. The course also features  comments from growth mindset guru Carol Dweck and mathematician Steven Strogatz.

The class includes 30 videos, takes 30 hours to complete and costs $99 per person. Teachers are encouraged to discuss the videos and math topics with other participants in an online class community.

For more information, or to pre-enroll, visit https://www.youcubed.org/how-to-learn-math-for-teachers-and-parents-copy/.

Looking for Resources for National Poetry Month?

April may or may not be “the cruellest month,” but it’s definitely a good time to think about how to bring poetry into into the classroom and help students discover the poet in themselves.

Teach this Poem Each week, this website features a poem and resources for interdisciplinary teaching and student activities for teachers of kindergarten through grade 12.

Poetry Foundation Poems for children on holidays and nature, from different countries and regions, and in blank verse or rhymed stanzas are featured on this website, along with resources for teachers and parents.

Poetry Out Loud provides resources for teachers, including a complete teacher guide and lesson plans, to teach students how to perform poetry.


Learn from the early implementers: New report calls out best practices for profession learning around Next Generation Science Standards  

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts: Professional Learning is a new 18-page report that shares insights from eight traditional school districts and two charter management organizations in California that took part in a project intended to build school system capacity for implementing NGSS. The idea was to monitor “early implementer” districts and share their reflections on what was needed to introduce the new science standards into state classrooms.

Read more

STEM Blossoms in California Salad Bowl

In an article for Education Week, Charles Taylor Kerchner tells the story of two Imperial Valley teachers who started the Imperial Valley Discovery Zone, which excites 2nd graders with the scientific method and opens doors in STEM colleges for high school students. The concept is pretty straightforward: get high school students to present highly engaging, interactive, standards-based science lessons to elementary school students beginning with 7- and 8-year-olds.

Read more

March 24, 2017

EdSource School Dashboard Database and more

The release of a new California School Dashboard – featuring ratings of schools and districts according to several accountability criteria – was big news recently.

Several EdSource stories have highlighting the pros and cons of the dashboard, as well as new “5×5 reports” that show how well schools or student subgroups are doing in specific categories.

Also, we’d like to draw your attention to our searchable EdSource California School Dashboard database, which includes comparison features not available on the state’s website. Our site shows side-by-side color-coded ratings for every category currently available in schools and districts. Our database also includes a “comparison clipboard” that allows users to easily click on a school or district and paste it onto an online clipboard, then add more schools or districts to see how they stack up next to each other.

Also of note in this update is a Q & A with a USC professor about the challenges teachers face in implementing the Common Core state standards and a new online guide to the standards created by the university.

Thanks for reading!

Theresa Harrington and Erin Brownfield


New California School Dashboard

The California Department of Education and other organizations have created several resources to help educators and the public understand and navigate the new California School Dashboard, which includes data that will be used for school and district accountability purposes beginning next fall.

These resources include:

  • California Department of Education Communications Toolkit.
  • Alameda County Office of Education Dashboard website, including video and infographics.
  • Ed100 Dashboard explanatory blog.
  • EdSource searchable database with “comparisons clipboard.”

EdReports Curriculum Reviews

The nonprofit organization EdReports, which reviews curriculum materials based on their alignment to Common Core standards in math and English language arts, recently released six new reports, including two for math and four for English language arts instruction. The reports include color-coded ratings that show whether or not materials are aligned to the standards. Green signifies they are aligned, yellow shows partial alignment and red designates lack of alignment. If materials are at least partially aligned, EdReports reviewers also rate the usability of the materials for students and teachers using the same color-coded system.

The new reports review:

The organization has also launched a California-specific website called the California Curriculum Collaborative, created in partnership with Pivot Learning, which also lists all Common Core curriculum materials recommended by the state Board of Education.

EdReports Seeks Curriculum Reviewers

EdReports relies on educators from across the country to review curriculum materials for its website. The nonprofit organization is currently seeking experts to serve as Content Reviewers. More details and an online application are available here. 

Johns Hopkins University reviews academic programs based on research

The Center for Research and Reform in Education in the School of Education at the John Hopkins University launched a new website earlier this month to help educators and administrators evaluate K-12 math and reading programs according to requirements established in the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. However, the U.S. Senate later voted to rescind accountability regulations under that law.

Still, anyone interested in learning about evidence-based programs may find the website, called Evidence for ESSA, useful.

It relies on the center’s faculty, along with scholarly studies, to determine an academic program’s effectiveness.

The website was established to function like a consumer report aimed at determining how well programs were vetted, said Robert Slavin, director of the center, in a university article.

“State chiefs, district superintendents, and principals are the primary audience —the people making decisions about programs for schoolchildren,” he said. “But there are many other people — parents and teachers, for example — who could use this information to advocate for particular programs that they think would be better for their kids. And we hope they will.”

Read more here.

In other news

New teacher tenure bill introduced

AB 1220, a bill that would lengthen the probationary period for new teachers, was introduced this week by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego.

Called the Teacher and Student Success Act, the bill would extend the probationary period before teachers receive tenure to three years, up from the current period of two years. According to the LA School Report, under the bill teachers who don’t meet the requirements in three years could receive a fourth or fifth year to receive additional mentoring and professional development.

Common Core critics built social media ‘Botnets’ to skew the education debate, says report

In an article for The 74, Kevin Mahnken writes that researchers with the University of Pennsylvania’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education released a report from the #commoncore project, suggesting that public animosity toward Common Core was amplified and manipulated by organized online communities using cutting-edge social media strategies.  Read more

March 7, 2017

Leading Change newsletter now includes expanded Common Core update

Welcome to EdSource’s new Common Core update web page, which is being produced in conjunction with our updated ‘Leading Change’ newsletter. The newsletter now has an expanded focus: the range of new California academic standards — from the Common Core standards in English language arts and math, to the Next Generation Science Standards and the history-social science standards — as well as how schools will be held accountable for measuring their progress on them.

You can subscribe to the newsletter here. Subscribers will find the newsletter in their email inbox twice a month. Additional resources can be found at our math and science page.

We will update our website often with relevant news, interviews, events and opportunities to participate in online #EdSourceChats. You can also engage us via Twitter.

We’d also like to hear your ideas and strategies for implementing California academic standards that we can share with others in the field.  And please share this link to our Common Core web page with your friends and colleagues.

Thanks for reading!

Theresa Harrington and Erin Brownfield

Common Core Standards: What educators are saying

Across the country, teachers are adapting their instructional practices to the new Common Core standards in math and English language arts. A recent report, called Listening and Learning from Teachers: A Summary of Focus Groups on the Common Core and Assessments, reveals support, concerns and insights about the standards expressed by elementary teachers in Delaware, Illinois, Utah and Wisconsin. The teachers also discussed how the standards are affecting curricula and instructional materials, testing, student achievement data and accountability.

Although California teachers were not involved in these discussions, many of the comments shared may ring true for those working to implement the standards in this state.

If you’d like to weigh in on how standards are affecting instruction in your school, please participate in our Common Core #EdSourceChat!

Read more

Physics professor defends a key feature of Common Core math

Writing for Forbes, author and physics professor Chad Orzel defends Common Core math’s emphasis on explaining how students get their answers. “Forcing students to not just generate numbers but understand and explain the process they used is one of the best developments I’ve seen in the math my kids are learning. I hope they keep this up all the way through school, because it will make them better scientists or engineers (should they choose to go that route), and just better thinkers in general.” Read more

What are states actually changing about Common Core?

According to a new analysis highlighted in an article at Education Week, though 21 states are revising the Common Core standards or have already  done so, most of the changes are minor: “Nearly 70 percent of the changes that were made in either math or language arts across all grades were simply wording or format clarifications to make the standards easier for educators or the public to understand.” Read more.


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Q & A’s on Common Core and other education issues

Q&A: Trainer asks teachers to examine unconscious racial bias

Kate Gerson, a former English teacher who is now a managing partner of programs at the nonprofit UnboundEd, trains teachers to change their practices and to use standards-aligned curriculum materials to provide rigorous lessons to all students.

Researcher: Jury still out on personalized learning approaches in California and across country

RAND Corporation researcher Elizabeth Steiner and her colleagues have found some personalized learning schools made gains, but it was difficult to determine which specific strategies worked and which didn’t in schools that received Next Generation Learning Challenge grants to help them pursue innovation.

Q&A: High school dropout researcher asks: What’s behind a diploma?

Russell Rumberger, a professor emeritus at UC Santa Barbara who directs the California Dropout Research Project, talks about the factors that lead to students dropping out of school.

Q & A : Common Core teacher shares insights in blog, workshops

Gabriela Orozco Gonzalez, a teacher in the Los Angeles area, discusses her “Common Core Café” blog, math and English lessons, teacher collaboration, testing and educating English learners.

Q & A: Book highlights vibrant, effective strategies for teaching math

Tracy Johnston Zager, “a rock star among teachers,” talks about her book, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had: Ideas and Strategies from Vibrant Classrooms, which deals with strategies for improving math instruction, as well as twitter chats about her book at #becomingmath.

Q & A: Poor students, English learners did better on tests but achievement gaps yet to narrow

Iwunze Ugo, a research associate who focuses on K–12 education at the nonprofit Public Policy Institute of California, or PPIC, says it’s too early to determine whether or not the state’s Local Control Funding Formula is working. But a recent report he co-authored shows that many districts and schools have a long way to go to achieve the goals envisioned when the radically different funding policy was approved by the legislature in 2012-13.

Q & A: Teaching math that isn’t boring to students

Kirk Walters, a managing researcher for American Institutes for Research, or AIR, talks about the Better Math Teaching Network in New England, which is testing new high school math instructional strategies to be shared with educators around the country.

Q & A: Educator and lecturer advocates for equity in education

Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, an associate professor and school teacher and leader in Oakland, says a focus on equity could lead to a Renaissance in education.

Q&A: USC associate professor discusses Common Core standards, new online guide

Dr. Corinne Hyde talks about Common Core controversy, standards implementation, tests, curriculum materials and USC’s online guide to the Common Core.

FAQ: What parents should know about the Common Core, by reporter Theresa Harrington

Q&A: Tips and insights from a Common Core math expert

Sean Nank, American College of Education professor, discusses Common Core math, instructional strategies, curriculum, and the beauty of patterns.

How is the new Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, affecting Common Core implementation?  

Interview with Anne Udall, of the New Teacher Center

Stanford professor urges teachers to rethink math instruction

Interview with Stanford professor Jo Boaler discussing her book, “Mathematical Mindsets.”

Upcoming Events

Rollout Events for the History–Social Science Framework

Educators interested in finding out how to implement the state’s new History-Social Science Framework are invited to attend one of several regional one-day conferences focused on the instructional shifts, new content and alignment with the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework across all grade levels, using inquiry-based strategies.

The events are co-sponsored by the California Department of Education in conjunction with the California History–Social Science Project, the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, and other organizations. They will be held:

·         April 16 in Stockton

·         April 25 in Riverside

·         May 22 in Sonoma

·         May 24 in Humboldt

·         August 2 in Shasta

Additional information and registration details are available on the California Department of Education’s History–Social Science Web page here.


Forty-three states, including California, have adopted the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. An initiative spurred by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core state Standards define skills that students should have mastered by the end of each grade in order to graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and the workplace. In the spring of 2015, California students took the Smarter Balanced assessments aligned with the standards for the first time. The 2016 results showed growth statewide, as teachers and students became more familiar with the standards.
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Common Core Explained

The Common Core State Standards are designed to improve students' chances of success in college and careers by setting uniform standards for what students should know in math and English language arts by the end of each school year, and by the time they graduate from high school. An initiative spurred by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Common Core State Standards have been adopted by forty-one states, but some have since announced major rewrites or replacements, leaving 30 states, plus the District of Columbia sticking to the standards.

Among the major instructional changes are: a substantial increase in the amount of non-fiction reading and writing, a greater emphasis on collaborative activities, and the expectation that math students are not only able to solve problems but explain how they did so.

Beginning in 2015, California students in grades 3-8 and 11 took the Smarter Balanced assessments – a battery of tests in English language arts and math that was designed to assess how well students were doing in those subjects based on instruction they received using the Common Core standards. In most school districts, these tests for the first time were taken on computers, with questions that adjusted in real time to students' answers.

California, home to one in eight of the nation's public school students, is crucial to the success of the Common Core. Conditions seem especially favorable for implementing the standards in California, at least compared to many other states. Both Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators support the Common Core, as do the state's major teachers' unions.

At the same time, California faces significant challenges in implementing the standards in its racially, ethnically, and economically diverse school system. Nearly 60 percent of California's more than 6 million students qualify for free or reduced price meals. In many districts, the percentage is far higher than that. In addition, more than one in four California public-school students are classified as English learners, one of the highest shares in the country. Finally, more than 300,000 teachers, along with principals and other school administrators, needed to be educated about the new standards before they could implement them.

EdSource Resources


A number of organizations have published online Common Core resources. Following are some of sites explaining various aspects of the Common Core State Standards:

Frequently Asked Questions

Several organizations have compiled lists of frequently asked questions regarding the Common Core State Standards. Here are some of the sites answering these questions from a range of perspectives.

EdSource Today is tracking a small number of California school districts in diverse regions of the state as they implement the Common Core State Standards. These stories highlight the challenges that educators, parents and students are facing as well as the progress they are making through the 2016-17 school year. The districts EdSource is following are: Elk Grove Unified, Fresno Unified, Garden Grove Unified, San Jose Unified, Santa Ana Unified and Visalia Unified. In addition, EdSource is following the Aspire charter school system, which includes 35 schools throughout the state.

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