Los Banos schools will implement new 'Common Core' standards

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comApril 1, 2013 

The Los Banos Unified School District is preparing for an overhaul of its testing system and curriculum.

In 2010 California became one of 45 states poised to implement Common Core State Standards -- encouraging critical thinking over memorization, embracing collaboration and integrating technology.

The switch to Common Core is scheduled in the 2014-15 school year.

Common Core aims to unify educational experiences across the nation so comparisons in education level can be made more accurately and students are prepared for the "real world."

Superintendent Steve Tietjen said the uniformity will help.

"What was going on is some states had higher standards," Tietjen said. "Governors wanted a nationwide standard so we can compare apples to apples."

Tietjen said under the current curriculum students are able to compete in the work force with the knowledge they've acquired in school, but under the new system students will learn lessons that are directly applicable to the work force. Tietjen gave an example of the difference between students learning to solve an equation and figuring out how to create a spread sheet, as opposed to students just learning how to create a spread sheet.

Testing will also be different. Instead of multiple choice close-ended test questions, students will be asked to reference material in essay form in a way that integrates several disciplines.

Mike Stagnaro, a history teacher at Los Banos High, said he hopes that students are able to get an appreciation of how subjects interrelate.

"It's not just math that you do every day, but it's math with English, it's science with math," he said. "As teachers we believe that what we're teaching is the most important thing, and it is for us. Now within these walls I have 150 students I can tell stories to, but now the stories will relate to their English class, their science class..."

Stagnaro is a point person at Los Banos High School for the Common Core transition. He and other teachers on various campuses are working with district administrators on the project. Some teachers attended a Common Core curriculum training in Merced March 22.

The new testing will be computer adaptive, meaning that as students get questions correct they get more difficult and if the answers are wrong the tests becomes easier.

Stagnaro said the testing allows teachers to know immediately at what grade-level each student is performing.

"In the past we've taken a test in April and we don't get the results until August. By that time the data, it's old," Stagnaro said. "This way we'll be able to pinpoint where the students need the most assistance."

Tietjen said the state Legislature is discussing canceling standardized testing for next year to allow more time to concentrate on establishing the Common Core system. Los Banos Unified is in need of some technology upgrades for the new testing. Tietjen said this summer the district will use a $273,000 grant to upgrade the infrastructure at Lorena Falasco and Miano Elementary schools.

"We have to have wireless connections for 180-200 students to take these tests at once," Tietjen said.

Pacheco High School, Henry Miller and Los Banos Elementary schools are among the campuses that already have the infrastructure needed for the new testing.

Parents of high school and junior high school students are being invited to a meeting on Common Core standards April 25 at 7 p.m. at the theater at Pacheco High, 200 N. Ward Road.

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