Tahoe school district beginning Common Core transition | SierraSun.com

Tahoe school district beginning Common Core transition

TTUSD is joining California and most other states in transitioning to a new student testing system that aligns with Common Core State Standards — and moves away from multiple choice bubble tests.
Courtesy Thinkstock.com | iStockphoto

By the numbers

816 (2013 growth) , 818 (2012 base) - Tahoe Truckee Unified School District

926* , 912* - Donner Trail Elementary

919 , 902* - Sierra Expeditionary Learning

854 , 829 - Truckee Elementary

850 , 846 - Glenshire Elementary

838 , 836 - Tahoe Lake Elementary

828 , 845 - North Tahoe Middle School

804 , 839 - Alder Creek Middle School

800 , 820 - Kings Beach Elementary

788 , 756 - North Tahoe High

786 , 768 - Truckee High

766* , 796* - Cold Stream Alternative

550* , no valid 2012 base - Sierra High Continuation

These numbers represent the Academic Performance Index (API) score for the district and individual schools.

API ranks California public schools using a 200- to 1,000-point scale based on student performance on standardized state tests given the previous school year. The state has set 800 as the API target for all schools.

“Ultimately, the API is a reflection of the work of our students and their level of achievement,” said TTUSD Superintendent Rob Leri. “We use the results of the California Standards Tests — which is used to calculate the API — in an analysis of the efficacy of our instructional practice and how students reach mastery.”

A complete report is available through the California Department of Education, http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/

*The API is asterisked if the school or local educational agency was small in either 2012 or 2013. APIs based on small numbers of students are less reliable, and therefore, should be carefully interpreted.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — After a majority of Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s schools saw increases in academic performance index scores for 2013, the tests used to calculate the ratings are a thing of the past.

On Oct. 2, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that essentially suspends the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program — comprising four tests, including the California Standards Tests — and starts the transition to an assessment system that aligns with Common Core State Standards.

“It doesn’t make sense to be tested on old standards,” said Dave Curry, director of Education Services for TTUSD.

Common Core is an education reform movement designed to provide youth with knowledge and skills they need to be college- and career-ready in the 21st century, including critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

“It’s nice because there are no bubble tests in the real world. You have to be able to think and justify.”
Erin LeFevers
North Tahoe High School

California adopted Common Core on Aug. 2, 2010, and is one of 45 states to do so, not including the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Common Core is not without its skeptics, according to various media reports, with criticism ranging from the standards themselves to the cost of implementation.

While full implementation of the standards — limited to math and English language arts for now — is planned for the California 2014-15 school year, TTUSD teachers have started creating Common Core lesson plans, said Rob Leri, district superintendent.

One such teacher is Erin LeFevers, English department chair for North Tahoe High School.

“Instead of saying we’re reading ‘Lord of the Flies,’ and you’re going to write an essay on it, then over here we’re going to have our grammar lesson, and then we’re going to have our vocab lesson — (now) everything ties together,” she said.

This helps move away from the “rote memorization” (retaining information through repetition) of No Child Left Behind, she said, and toward “application, digging deeper and getting into critical thinking.”

This shift in education standards will be reflected in the new exams offered through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

According to the district, tests will include questions and performance tasks to measure student critical thinking and problem solving skills — rather than multiple choice, fact-recall bubble answers.

“It’s nice because there are no bubble tests in the real world,” LeFevers said. “You have to be able to think and justify.”

A field test of the exam will happen this school year, Curry said, with half of the students being tested in math and the other half in English language arts. Exam results will not be reported to the school district.

Specifics on which students will be tested this year are not clear at this time, Curry said.

Initial results in New York and Kentucky showed a large decline in the number of students passing the Common Core aligned exam compared to prior tests, according to media reports.

“I think it will be a transition,” said Joanna Mitchell, principal of North Tahoe High. “As with anything, training the students to expect a different test of their knowledge will take some time.”

Additionally, TTUSD students will complete the field test exams on computers.

“My only concern is that it will be computer-based, and so it’s just working out the logistics,” Mitchell said. “How to get everyone tested in an orderly fashion on the technology that we have.

“… Our building is definitely capable of supporting that, but figuring out exactly how that’s going to happen will be a transition, as well; an adjustment.”

To learn more about Smarter Balanced, visit http://www.smarterbalanced.org. To learn more about Common Core, visit http://www.corestandards.org.

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