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Common-Core Implementation Lags in California, Report Argues

Implementation of the Common Core State Standards in California is falling behind in contrast to other states, and policymakers must be more aggressive than they have been since the state adopted the standards in English/language arts and math more than two years ago, a new report from a California education policy group argues.

While some districts in California are attempting to fill the gap left by the state's department of education and other state policymakers, the state leadership appears to have deviated from its historically strong position of standards-based K-12 policy changes, according to the report from Education Trust-West, an education advocacy and research group in Oakland. The report, "Catching up to the Core," also receives endorsements from the California Office to Reform Education and Latino advocacy groups like the National Council of La Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The report says that if the state's failure to be aggressive in implementing the standards continues, it will hit low-income and minority students and English-language learners particularly hard.

The report's authors compare the schedule of common-standards implementation in California with that in New York state, as well as in the Sacramento City Unified School District. The report divides common core action into "awareness," "transition," and "implementation". Using steps such as the adoption of curriculum frameworks and professional development changes, California's implementation phase won't truly begin until the 2012-13 academic year, Education Trust-West says, while New York state, which had teachers introduce at least one common-standards-aligned course unit in classrooms this year, is beginning to implement the standards during the 2011-12 academic year. Sacramento's district, meanwhile, began even earlier, during the 2010-11 school year, when professional development based on the standards was already being introduced there, Education Trust-West said. (The graphic illustrating California's slow implementation is on page 4 of the report.)

"In contrast to California, other states more quickly aligned myriad policies related to the CCSS, created coherent systems of professional development, and initiated collaborations with other states to benefit from economies of scale," the report states.

The group has several recommendations. First among them is that the state must do a better job of communicating to teachers, parents, and others in the K-12 community. The report specifically singles out Florida as an example of what happens to a state when it "failed to effectively prepare the public when they introduced large-scale changes to their assessment system." This is a reference to the plunge in Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test writing scores earlier this year after the cut-score on that Florida test was raised. In addition, the group says, California should also take an active role in disseminating professional development materials and programs from local school districts, as well as counties and charter management organizations, so that teachers and others can access them regardless of where they work.

The state's plan to implement the common core was approved on March 7. On Nov. 15, the state made it possible for teachers and others to access professional development materials tied to the common core from the state department, as well as materials coming from counties, districts and others. For now, using the search form to look for PD for teachers on the common core returns one item, an archived webinar from WestEd on the English/language arts standards appears.

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