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Equation changes for local students

The Hillsboro School District is changing the way it teaches math and language arts to meet a state directive that endorses national education standards.

Beginning next school year, students in Hillsboro will be tested on the same standards for English language arts and math as students in 44 other states.

The Oregon State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative in 2010. The initiative is national in scope, but not a federal program. The standards are promoted by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“This is not anything where the district said, ‘We need a new set of standards,’” said Steve Larson, assistant superintendent in charge of school performance. “The idea behind the initiative is to see what it would look like if we had similar standards across the country.”

The Hillsboro district has been studying and implementing new math and language arts curriculum since the 2010-2011 school year, Larson said. The district will begin assessing student achievement of the new standards in 2014-2015.

Some states are already assessing students under the CCSS, while a few states, such as Texas and Minnesota, have not adopted the standards.

The CCSS for grades K-12 were developed in collaboration with content experts, higher education faculty, teachers, school administrators and parents, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

Other curriculum, such as science and social science, will be taught to Oregon’s previously established standards in 2007, Larson said.

According to information on the CCSS website, the new standards are designed to “ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing entry courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the work force.”

“It creates an opportunity for states to work together to improve the delivery of instruction,” Larson said. “Whenever you have common standards and similar expectations at specific grade levels, there are no gaps in education.”

According to Larson, a benefit of multi-state standards is the ability to engage with states that are achieving high rates of success and determine what they are doing right.

One of the biggest challenges for teachers is aligning new and old standards to meet separate testing criteria.

For example, a student will be tested in math this year based on 2007 standards, but must also start learning the CCSS curriculum to achieve successful test results next year.

These changes have not come without controversy.

Five members of the public attended a Hillsboro School Board work session Oct. 1 at the Civic Center, protesting the CCSS with homemade signs. One man’s sign claimed the CCSS results in less voter input, higher costs and more confusion.

The complaint was not lost on board member Erik Seligman, who called the CCSS an “unfunded mandate that requires school districts to spend more money on materials.”

Larson acknowledged the state is not providing additional funds to implement the CCSS, and said the Hillsboro district is aligning old textbooks with new curriculum.

“Most districts aren’t buying new curriculum because they don’t have any money,” Larson said.

The district is still studying the need for new textbooks while measuring the quality of open source materials that are free, Larson said.

“If we don’t see evidence of sufficient growth, we would reassess our material,” he said. “We call that evaluating whether curriculum is guaranteed and viable.”




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