By Jason KUROSU
The Glendale Unified School District board of education provided an update of their Common Core State Standards implementation at their regular board meeting Tuesday night.
Assistant Superintendent Lynn Marso led a presentation showing that the district is currently in year four of a four-year plan to implement the state mandated Common Core standards.
The presentation covered how Common Core training is proliferated to school sites through Common Core Instructional Leadership Teams (CCILT), which are formed from teachers and administrators. These teams receive training on the standards and then bring what they learn back to their specific school sites.
Currently, 100 elementary school staff members have been trained, along with all of the district’s sixth grade teachers. Teams at the secondary level also received training in technical subjects (physical education, visual and performing arts and career technical education). Further teacher training will take place this summer, at which time Marso said the teachers would be surveyed on the Common Core training and their needs for proper implementation.
The budget presentation indicated that much of the two-year Common Core funding was used on training and professional development. Last year’s budget also featured technology expenses, with the district purchasing 4,134 Chromebooks intended for use in a collaborative pilot program, allowing students to work with children at other school sites via the Chromebooks. The collaborative Chromebook projects are being developed for four fifth grade classes within the district at Balboa, Horace Mann, Mountain Avenue and John Muir Elementary schools. This year’s budget was primarily spent on professional development and instructional materials.
GUSD board President Greg Krikorian expressed concerns with the Common Core math standards, echoing comments from parents who felt that students are not transitioning smoothly into Common Core math.
Speaking about his son’s eighth grade class, Krikorian said, “Almost 80% of the class is failing [math]. That means we and the teachers have to get a grip on this and find out what’s going on.”
Krikorian was concerned for the effects on current student grades and future class placement down the line, saying that he knew personally of many students who were now failing math after consistently receiving good grades in the past.
“I know a lot of this has been brought upon on a federal and state mandate, a lot of it’s pushed on us and connected with dollars,” said Krikorian. “But here we are showing that a large amount of the kids are failing. Maybe we’ve got to pull back for math specifically.”
Krikorian suggested perhaps more of a phase-in program was needed to help students transition into the Common Core math components.
“It’s hard when you see a 14-year-old telling his dad, ‘I let you down because I got an F.’ We’re letting him down because we’ve got to do our jobs better,” said Krikorian.
Superintendent Richard Sheehan said the math curriculum would not be “dummied down” and praised the mathematics achievements of the district’s students.
“Our number of kids in advanced mathematics continues to grow. The number of kids in AP calculus is growing, as well as the pass rates in those courses. So we plan on doing nothing but expanding upon our successes in the Advanced Placement courses.”
Sheehan did say the district will be monitoring trends and grade distributions in order to have data for the public on the students’ progress in Common Core, which could allow for changes in the district’s implementation of the standards.
Sheehan also said that improved teacher training in the math standards could help alleviate the mathematics issues.
“This is not to disparage teachers, but to get a teaching credential in California, you are not required [to know] enough mathematics to teach at the elementary level in my opinion. We’ve raised the bar so high. One of the things we’re looking at is how do we beef up our math instruction in grades four through six.”
The state of California will be officially assessed on its Common Core implementation for the first time between the months of March and May.
Facilities, Planning, Development & Support Operations Administrator Alan Reising also presented the latest Measure S funded projects within the district. Among these were pool deck restoration at Crescenta Valley High, electrical work for portable classrooms at Jefferson Elementary School and work on the district’s Network Operations Center.
Projects were also approved for inspection services for projects at College View and Hoover High.