The Common Core Standards are fundamentally altering the way students learn and have generated broad debate nationally. Their implementation in California was the focus of a panel discussion in Sacramento yesterday. PPIC sponsored the event in conjunction with the release of two reports, Implementing the Common Core State Standards in California and California’s Transition to the Common Core State Standards: The State’s Role in Local Capacity Building.
The reports show that California’s shift to the Common Core—which emphasizes conceptual understanding and problem solving—is off to a slow start. They also note that California has treated the transition as a district-level issue, with the state Department of Education reviewing instructional materials and providing a professional library of resources that can be downloaded by teachers. Speakers at yesterday’s event saw both points as positive.
Patricia Rucker, a member of the state Department of Education, said taking a thoughtful approach was more important than being out in front. California can learn from states like New York and, ultimately, lead by incorporating the lessons from others, she said. She also noted that California’s careful approach has helped avoid the backlash over the new standards that other states are experiencing.
David Gordon, superintendent of the Sacramento Office of Education, said the state’s decentralized approach to implementation offers opportunities. “A lot of our districts have great talent,” he said. “A lot of the counties have great talent. A lot of the private vendor providers have great talent. I think we need to use all of that to advantage.”
Patrick Murphy, PPIC’s research director and a co-author of the reports, said California has an opportunity to be “strategic late adopters.” Echoing a theme of the reports, he said the state is uniquely situated to take a different role in education. It could, for example, set up a site—similar to Yelp—to encourage educators on the ground to exchange information about teaching the Common Core.
The speakers noted two important lessons learned so far:
- The experience of other states shows that California’s future test scores will drop—a development that educators and parents need to be prepared for.
- The requirement to administer tests electronically has highlighted the need for updated technology in the state’s public schools and has sparked action to do so.