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Morgan Hill
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February 9, 2023

MHUSD teachers prep for curriculum overhaul

When the Morgan Hill Unified School District offered training for its teachers on the new Common Core State Standards, 34-year veteran instructor Lourdes Robledo signed up right away to learn the new set of academic guidelines created by select teachers, parents and community leaders across the country.
MHUSD’s 2013 Teacher of the Year – a second-grade educator at San Martin Gwinn Elementary School for three decades – decided to get any early jump on something that has been talked about amongst groups of teachers since California became one of 45 states to adopt the new curriculum in June 2010.
“I wanted to get right on the ball right away. I didn’t want to get it second-hand. I wanted to get it straight from the experts,” said Robledo, who encouraged her daughter, Melissa Moralez, a fellow second-grade teacher in San Martin, to sign up for the week-long training program.
The two elementary school teachers joined a group of 80 Morgan Hill instructors tagged by the district as “early adopters” of the Common Core State Standards, which will replace the current state content standards and must be fully integrated into the classroom by the start of 2014-15 school year. Additionally, new state-mandated online testing program called “Smarter Balanced Assessments” will completely replace the outdated bubble-in Standardized Testing and Reporting System, or STAR, by the 2014-2015 school year.
“California’s students need the real-world skills that open the door to success in a career and in college,” said Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “These new assessments will tell us whether we’re getting the job done.”
The changes mark a $1.25 billion overhaul in academic curricula to public education, authorized locally in June by the California State Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown. The state held two CCSS showcases last month, one on English Language Arts and the other on mathematics to prepare educators for the transition.
Complaints from university and business leaders that high school graduates were ill-equipped to tackle introductory-level college courses or enter the workforce helped push California to adopt the CCSS, according to Public Information Officer Tina Jung of the California Department of Education.
“(CCSS) helps kids think more deeply and gives them hands-on skills so they can learn to think step by step to solve problems,” said Jung, adding that CCSS will “completely change the way we teach” and “replace outdated ways of root memorization.”
The newer standards delve more deeply into each particular subject; allow more instruction time for each section; are more “engaged” and “project-based” with a heightened emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking, as described by MHUSD’s Assistant Superintendent Norma Martinez-Palmer of Educational Services.
While it’s up to individual schools districts to adopt the CCSS, it’s wise for them to do so, according to Jung, since the CCSS goes hand in hand with, and is designed to prepare students for the new Smarter Balanced Assessments. The online exams ask students to perform on-screen tasks; click and drag answers into boxes; and give step-by-step reasoning to solutions. Answers must demonstrate a student’s topical comprehension through recalling, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating.
“We hope the school districts adopt (CCSS) because like it or not, it’s coming,” Jung said.
Another purpose of the CCSS is to establish a national standard for education. Whether a student transfers to another district or moves to another state, the CCSS will “make what kids learn common across the nation,” Jung says.
The new curriculums are already getting an A+ from teachers such as Robledo, who likes the fact that students will collaborate on projects, learn from one another and grasp concepts by actually doing instead of just being lectured. With the CCSS, teachers can allow more time for better understanding on each topic instead of rushing through, explained Robledo.
“I walked away honestly feeling valued as an educator,” said Moralez of the initial CCSS training. “I’ve been teaching for eight years, and I was like, ‘finally, wow, I get to do what I always wanted to do, what I was trained to do…I get to actually be a teacher.’”
The current standards and assessment exams have long shackled teachers with time restraints of swiftly moving from one topic to another according to Robledo and Moralez. This only allows for basic understanding or “skimming the surface” of a particular subject, they agree.
“This is going back to great teaching,” said Robledo. “Now it’s like we’re going back to using these good practices and good techniques we know and were taught…public education is going to change for the better.”
The CCSS moves away from reading novels (although they will not be completely eliminated from classroom learning) and instead focuses on having students gain a better understanding of how to extract information from textbooks. Students will no longer be asked to memorize facts; rather, they will be asked to fully explain how they arrived at their conclusions.
“It definitely is different. They are going to be more rigorous for the kids,” said Martinez Palmer, describing the CCSS as “broader and deeper.”
The plan is to have all MHUSD teachers trained in CCSS by June 2014, says Martinez-Palmer. This past year, Barrett Elementary School was used as one of several hundred pilot schools across the country, testing its sixth-graders with the Smarter Balanced System. Teachers and students gave feedback on what they thought of the new online testing format.
“It’s no longer about just getting the right answer,” Martinez Palmer said. “It’s about demonstrating your understanding and knowledge.”
President Teresa Sage of the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers, an 18-year veteran educator who teaches AP World History at Ann Sobrato High School, said that “teachers are very excited about the Common Core,” and that it’s “a return to a richer curriculum.”
“It’s a big undertaking,” she added.

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