administration has recognized them as a sturdy college-preparatory plan -- one
that can thus be tied to possible Race to the Top funds and No Child Left
Though Skandera and others say that the state's current standard and benchmark practices already incorporate many aspects of Common Core Standards (see the "What's the Difference?" link on the Public Education Department's website, newmexicocommoncore.org, for a grade-by-grade comparison chart), Common Core adoption will require districts to plan professional-development sessions for teachers.
To that end, Santa Fe Public Schools has a plan in place. In early May, it will host two days of "Studying the Standards" training for district administrators and principals. In late May, experts from the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin will come to Santa Fe for some "train the trainers" training, Johnson said. Over two days of intensive study of the standards, they will teach about 120 Santa Fe leader-teachers representing all of the district's schools. (Ironically, Texas is one of just a handful of states to refuse to adopt Common Core.)
Then, those 120 teachers will spend another 10 days working in cluster groups, writing up the curriculum necessary for each grade level of Common Core. In early August, the teachers will spend two more days teaching other teachers in their schools how to adapt to the adoption.
The cost to the district, including paying the Dana Center instructors and reimbursing teachers to attend the training, will top $300,000, Johnston said, with the funds coming from federal Title II professional development funds.
Sink said Albuquerque Public Schools also plans to rely on Title II funds and is writing grants for additional money for its teacher training.
Skandera said the state budget includes $1 million for professional development for Common Core teachers. In addition, districts can look for ways to rely on some $27 million appropriated for instructional materials for use in the Common Core Standards. She said the state may also seek private funding to help finance the transition.
But when asked whether the state had developed a budget for the transition, Skandera said, "I don't have one," and reiterated that districts should be savvy in redirecting funds for training.
She said she did not see a downside to adopting the standards, and emphasized that the state will perform a "bridge assessment" of how next year's K-3 standards work by the following summer. That initial assessment will rely on both Standards Based Assessment test results and other district-driven measures.
After that first year, the state will rely on PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments to gauge results. New Mexico is one of 23 states involved in PARCC.
Skandera said these assessments will lead the state to consider what it needs to change, tweak, throw out or add when it comes to teaching Common Core Standards.
Not everyone likes the Common Core concept. Critics argue that the standards are flawed -- not enough math at certain points, wrong choices in literature at other points. The Alliance for Childhood argues that the standards should not begin until grade four.
"Young children are entering their school years, not exiting them" is one of the points that group posts on its website, arguing that preparing a first-grader for college is a bit extreme.
And not everyone has easily jumped on the Common Core bandwagon. In Utah, state senators recently tried to push through a bill asking the state Board of Education to reconsider the adoption of the standards. That bill died on the house floor.
Johnston, Sink and Skandera are all embracing the new standards. "It's exciting, and it is a little scary," Johnston said, adding that she would have preferred to have another year to pilot the Common Core in kindergarten and grades one and two. "But I think they are a good thing for our state."
"The ability to think critically is the key to success in life," Skandera said. "We want all of our kids to walk into college ready. Are we going to see results from Common Core overnight? No. Will it be hard? Yes. Great things are often hard to achieve."
Visit www.corestandards.org for a national view of the standards, and newmexicocommoncore.org for the state's Common Core information.
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