Saddleback Valley Unified schools are in for a big shift in curricula and state testing this fall.
Kathy Dick, assistant superintendent of instruction, outlined the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) at the SVUSD school board meeting Tuesday.
"This is a very exciting time in public education, with interesting, challenging changes to our curriculum," she said.
The new standards will alter teaching styles in English language arts and math.
English instruction will move away from an emphasis on literature to a 50-50 split between fiction and nonfiction. Writing tests will require careful reading of texts instead of being based more on student experiences.
In mathematics, the standards will shift from cursory instruction on multiple topics to focusing deeply on a few critical areas. For example, elementary students will concentrate on operations and fractions, which are a strong predictor of success in algebra.
Habits of Mind
Also ahead: Habits of Mind, which concentrates on tools needed for college and the workplace.
In English language arts, that means helping students be independent, understand other cultures, respond to varying demands and use technology capably, Dick said.
New math standards include reasoning abstractly and quantitatively, making sense of problems and solving them, constructing valid arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others.
The new 21st-century skills are creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving, and communication and collaboration, Dick said.
A New Take on Standardized Testing
Instead of the current emphasis on multiple-choice tests, such as the Standardized Testing and Reporting program, CCSS focuses on the learning process involved in Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium and the National Center and State Collaborative, a complex, performance-based assessment.
Students will trade pencils and multiple-choice test sheets for computers and group projects. The state plans to fully implement the new testing by Spring 2015.
Dick said she was pleased to see curricula emphasizing critical thinking, with students creating their own questions and their own meanings.
So far, most teachers are happy to see more opportunities for creativity in their classrooms, officials said. But some are apprehensive because it's a new system and doubling curricula during the transition may cause strains.
School board President Dolores Winchell said the district would be closely involved in helping the teachers through this “monumental transition.”