Common core deadlines loom, Brown may reduce state role in teacher training

The first of four professional development programs intended to help teachers bring the common core standards into California classrooms is set for release in July, state officials said Monday.

The learning modules - which will be available free for use by schools, districts and individual teachers - is one of several activities related to the implementation of the roll out of common core that now have definitive deadlines and benchmarks.

This fall, revised standards for teaching English learners supportive of the common core are expected to be available. And in February 2013, the first reviews of supplemental instructional materials aligned with the common core have been set to be unveiled.

The California State Board of Education adopted the national common core standards in math and English language arts in 2010 but the state has struggled to move the program ahead.

Next week, at its regular May meeting, the state board will review a newly updated timeline at least somewhat tied to when national assessments on the common core are expected in 2014-15.

The state's fiscal crisis clearly has inhibited progress and in a report to the board, staff at the California Department of Education again warn that the cost of implementing the (common core standards) is significant" - referencing the need to provide more training for teachers, new instructional materials and eventually new assessments as well.

Last fall, the CDE estimated the cost at close to $800 million. But that opinion may be changing.

CDE staff also said in the same report that there may also be considerable opportunities for savings. Some costs, for instance "will be offset by the improved efficiencies." They also note the "benefits of shared costs with other states" and the shifting of current costs to common core activities.

One of the biggest single cost items, instructional materials, the CDE notes, "will span multiple years but will be offset by access to a national market of materials and greater price competition in so long as California does not add state-specific evaluation criteria."

Meanwhile, there also may be a shift in state policy in its role as a provider of professional development.

Sue Burr, the executive director of the state board and one of the primary education advisers to Gov. Jerry Brown, told members of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing on Friday that the administration would be treading carefully from here forward.

"I do think we need to look carefully at the role of the state when it comes to professional development," said Burr in a report on the next steps with the common core.

"We had a very specific role, we took a specific and I think a very directive role as it relates to professional development tied to instructional materials before," she explained. "I think there is some question about whether we want to go down that path again, both in terms of that level of prescription and also the state telling districts what to do."

Burr said that Gov. Brown feeling strongly that more decisions need to be made on the local level and that giving districts more flexibility when it comes to spending decisions are key parts of his agenda.

"My boss believes that the best decisions are made locally, and so in the bigger context, what we're trying to do with respect to funding for school districts is to create a weighted pupil formula and to give districts complete flexibility over how they spend their money, as long as they meet the outcomes we expect them to do, so I think in that kind of an environment, we would expect districts to provide professional development," Burr said.

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