Scripps Ranch Schools Committee (SRSC)

Important Issues

Because of the topical information on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation, including a meeting at Marshall Middle School in mid-January, this report focuses on CCSS, as well as an update on school calendars. Both those issues took up a majority of the discussion at the December and January Schools Committee meetings.

School Calendar Update

At the January Schools Committee meeting, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) president Kevin Beiser shared updates on the district calendar. Kevin said there will be no change to the 2014–2015 school calendars. [At press time, draft traditional and year-round calendars circulating, which were expected to be adopted by the school board on Tuesday, Jan. 28, show the first day of school as Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014.]

As a reminder, the plan for a common calendar for both year-round and traditional schools in 2014–2015 was in the works. The goal at that time was for the new calendar to take affect this September. However, that will not happen.

One of the objections to the new calendar was a lack of input from interested parties, including parents, who would be directly affected by the change. Possible changes to the district calendar, such as an earlier start date or longer breaks will not be implemented until stakeholder input can be gathered, with possible changes occurring in 2015–2016 or 2016–2017.

The board is receptive to the idea of transitioning a few schools at a time from year-round to traditional schedules, as a pilot for phasing in all schools to a single calendar. However, no formal plan has been developed. Jerabek Elementary School, which is currently year-round, is attempting to be one of the first schools to transition to the traditional calendar.

Common Core State Standards Implementation Update

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation at our area schools continues to be the main topic of the SRSC meetings. All school sites have received sufficient funds for five days of substitute teacher time. This will allow site-based CCSS training, including planning, professional development, lesson studies, improving practices, and developing assessments under the guidance of the principals, who have already gone through district professional development on CCSS implementation.

Use of the release time varies by school, with some splitting their time to 10 half-days. Several Scripps Ranch High School teacher teams are doing their training after school. Collaborative planning includes site visits to observe CCSS techniques at other schools.

The transition of middle school students to the district’s new integrated CCSS math sequence is an unresolved issue. As a review, the district has chosen to replace the current Algebra 1/2-Geometry-Intermediate Algebra sequence with Integrated Math 1, 2, and 3 courses. These teach some algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics each year.

The greatest issue is for students now in Algebra 1. The current plan is that all Algebra 1 students will complete the full Algebra 1/2 course. It was still unclear at press time to which math course students in the current math sequence—particularly those in Algebra 1/2—will move to next year or exactly what the accelerated math course sequence will look like.

An official district articulation/matriculation plan for math was expected before the end of January. SDUSD staff has incorporated feedback from all stakeholders to create a plan to best meet the needs of our students as we transition to CCSS. The district also has purchased supplementary materials for teachers to enhance the current curriculum. District representatives assured parents at the CCSS Math Night at Marshall Middle School in mid-January that they are diligently working to make sure this implementation plan is seamless and supports our students.

As part of CCSS students will be assessed with much more complex “computer-adaptive” tests that measure deeper understanding of the materials and use both artificial intelligence and trained persons to score. California will use the Smarter Balanced Assessment in 2015, and students in the district will participate in field tests of both the English Language Arts (ELA) and math questions from Smarter Balanced Assessments this spring.

Meanwhile, district interim assessments of CCSS were administered to students in ELA and math in early December. Several principals commented on how the exams were challenging to students, who are used to performing well on other assessments and felt some anxiety with these tests. Challenges included being able to perform “on demand,” integrate several skills, and explain their thought process in writing. The assessments are providing insight to teachers on the types of questions students will encounter and giving teachers direction for adjustments to instruction to meet the students’ needs.

In preparation for CCSS assessments, parents are encouraged to strengthen their children’s typing skills using online programs such as Mavis Beacon, as all CCSS assessments are completed on computers. Sample questions of CCSS assessments can be found at the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium website at [www.smarterbalanced.org/sample-items-and-performance-tasks/]. It is of note that both the SAT and the ACT tests also will be redesigned and implemented as early as 2015, with online testing and open-ended questions that are more similar to the CCSS assessments. Additional information about CCSS is provided by the PTA at [http://pta.org/parents/content.cfm?ItemNumber=2583].

Next Meeting

The SRSC meetings are held on the third Wednesday of the month, during the school year, at 4:30 pm in the Marshall Middle School community room. Meetings are open to the public. The next meeting is on Wednesday, Mar. 19. For questions, email co-chair Shana Smith at [[email protected]].

Tamara Hurley, SRSC Legislative Analyst