By Sheldon Reber
PIO, Solano County Office of Education, PIO
As California prepares for new, more rigorous Common Core State academic standards in schools, Solano County educators hit the books last week to prepare to teach the county’s 64,000 students what will be the most challenging academic standards they have ever seen.
Standards define the knowledge, concepts, and skills that students are expected to learn at each grade level. The Common Core Standards were developed by states across the country to give schools consistent, clear education standards for English-language arts and mathematics as they prepare students for the demands of college and careers.
The Solano County Office of Education (SCOE) worked with the Pearson education organization to develop robust training that will begin preparing teachers and school administrators for the tougher academic requirements coming to California classrooms at the start of the 2014-15 school year.
On August 20 and 21, SCOE hosted intensive training for teachers and administrators on the new mathematics standards. Educators from all six K-12 school districts in Solano County worked with county leaders and Pearson experts to explore the Common Core standards lessons and learn how to help students succeed under the more challenging standards. More training sessions for educators, to cover both mathematics and English-language arts, will be held in September and October. In November, Pearson will work with SCOE on a Secondary Academic Institute for middle and high school leaders to continue the preparation for the shift to the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.
“Under the new Common Core Standards, we will be significantly improving English-language arts and mathematics instruction to make sure our students are ready to complete high school and succeed in college and careers,” said Solano County Superintendent of Schools Jay Speck. “This will be a major change for educators and students, and we are working hard to make sure we are prepared for the new academic rigor that starts just two years from now.”
With only two years until the world-class learning standards are implemented in classrooms, the time to get ready for the major instructional shift is now. SCOE has been working to make the change less of a jolt for educators as they work to improve students’ college and career readiness under the new standards.
“We worked closely with Pearson to develop this critically important training customized for the specific needs of students in Solano school districts,” said Lisette Estrella-Henderson, SCOE’s Associate Superintendent of Student Programs and Educational Services.
The California Department of Education (CDE) supports the major update to current rigorous standards by declaring that the “Common Core standards provide for additional skills and knowledge necessary in a global economy and technology-rich workplace.” Under the Common Core standards, “students will learn to work collaboratively and use digital media to express and present evidence-based fiction and non-fiction literary analysis,” the CDE states. The new standards also will “focus on extending mathematical thinking to real-world challenges so that students develop a depth of understanding and an ability to solve everyday problems through the power of mathematics.”
With its aggressive training program for teachers and administrators already underway, Solano County Office of Education officials said educators will be ready for the challenge.
“Our educators are going to be very well prepared to help students succeed under the new standards. They are working hard, and we have dedicated ourselves to giving teachers and administrators very significant support to prepare for what will be a new era in California education,” Superintendent Speck said.
Pearson Vice President Vicky Bush said the Solano County Office of Education’s work is a model for California.
“Superintendent Speck and his great team recognized from the beginning that the Common Core Standards were going to be very important for California students and that educators needed to start preparing right away for the increased academic rigor,” Bush said. “Superintendent Speck and Associate Superintendent Estrella-Henderson have done marvelous work preparing this rigorous training for educators in Solano County, and their hard work is going to pay off for students who will be ready to meet the challenge of the new Common Core Standards. Pearson is honored to have been SCOE’s partner in this effort.”
The Pearson organization also partnered with the Solano County Office of Education and the University of California, Davis this summer on a STEM++ Institute. The special Institute, centered on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and the Common Core Standards, drew 25 educators from throughout Solano County.
Teachers and administrators who have already trained for the Common Core Standards will be helping other educators prepare this fall at their schools. Estrella-Henderson said SCOE’s goal is to “build the capacity within each district by creating a cadre of trainers at each district level so this information about the Common Core Standards can get to the classroom teachers as soon as possible.”
The Solano County Office of Education serves the Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield-Suisun, Travis, Vacaville, and Vallejo City school districts. Those districts, collectively, have more than 2,900 teachers and 235 administrators. About four out of every 10 students in the county live at or near the poverty line.
“A good education is the one factor that gives every person a chance to succeed in life,” Superintendent Speck said. “We owe it to the children of Solano County to make sure that a more rigorous education will help them have brighter futures.”