National curriculum to be implemented over coming years

Lucy Tantum

For years, teachers have been guided by California standards and students have taken state-standardized tests.  Starting this year, however, the education systems of most states will be joined under a national curriculum.

The nationwide curriculum, called the Common Core, will be phased into the Tam District in the coming years.

In an attempt to unify schools across the country and equalize education everywhere, the curriculum imposes a new set of standards.

Additionally, a new standardized test will accompany the standards starting in 2014.

The test, called the Smarter Balance, will replace the STAR tests.  Next year’s juniors will be the first to take the test.

California adopted the curriculum in 2010, and has been implementing it ever since.  The state has budgeted $1.25 billion for the implementation of the standards.

In total, 45 states have agreed to use the Common Core, according to the company’s official website.

In math, the standards encourage explaining the reasoning behind a problem.  In English, the standards emphasize researching and integration with other subjects.

According to Tara Taupier, Director of Instructional Technology and Staff Development, the new standards will not be radically different.

“The Common Core is based on California and Massachusetts state standards,” said Taupier.  “A lot of our curriculum is already in alignment with Common Core.”

Currently, the standards have only been set for English and math.  According to Taupier, social studies and science standards are expected to come in the next few years.

According to math teacher Julie Norwood, there will be some noticeable changes in the classroom.

“In the math department, you should be continuing to do problem-solving, open-ended questions, problems with more than one right answer,” Norwood said.  “You might see some content shifting, like things that were taught in geometry might be moved to a different course.”

According to the California Department of Education, the Common Core curriculum and the accompanying test will be running at full capacity by 2015.

The Smarter Balance test, which will be administered on the computer, will incorporate more critical thinking and interpretation than the STAR test.

“There are more skills involved, particularly in English,” Taupier said.  “For example, STAR didn’t have any writing, and the Common Core will have writing prompts and interpretation.”

Both Norwood and Taupier said that implementing the new curriculum has proved challenging.

“It’s been a little challenging because they produced a list of standards, but they didn’t publish any textbooks to go with it,” Norwood said.

“A lot of work has been going on in all these schools separately and there isn’t really a way to unify all of that.”

However, the state has provided resources for implementation.

“There have been some workshops around Common Core standards,” Taupier said.  “Once teachers start implementing it, we’ll see what the needs are.”