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Common Core and technology in our classrooms

Melanie Blake

Melanie Blake

By Melanie Blake

We’re hearing a lot these days about “Common Core” or “CCSS,” California’s new Common Core State Standards. Teachers are training and shifting practice to include deeper, more complex learning activities that engage students and incorporate technology. But how do teachers infuse this in-depth knowledge and still focus on foundation skills at the elementary level?

One innovative program, being field-tested at Dunbar Elementary School, is called the “Grade Level Proficiency Project” or GLPP. It is the brainstorm of educators Marian Rasmussen and Terry Roberts, in conjunction with Dunbar Elementary School, Gary Nelson and private supporters of early literacy programs. It is designed to improve student performance in language arts and math, and is aligned to the district’s Strategic Plan goal that all children will be reading at grade level by the third grade.

GLPP is an innovative mix of technology, curriculum, assessment practices and professional development. But to students in our second-/third-grade, multi-age team at Dunbar, it’s fun and engaging learning. Students use iPads and research-based online learning programs three to five times a week, for 30 to 60 minutes, to master basic skills and complex concepts in language arts and math. The students work their way through interactive lessons targeted to each student’s learning level. This is done through a blend of assessments, placement procedures and data used by the teachers and consultants in regular planning meetings. Teachers’ initial responses are positive and hopeful as students tune into learning and performance rises. Students report that the learning is fun.

Dunbar and GLPP are hosting an open house the week of May 5. Dunbar is also hosting its annual open house from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14. The public is invited to come meet the educators and see how the GLPP program works.

Students are taking their first computer-based state assessment this year. Some students in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District have already started or completed the state’s “Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium” or “SBAC” test. It is important to infuse technology into daily teaching and learning to prepare students for the future. That is a requirement in today’s educational world.

National standards and California’s state standards require students to demonstrate a degree of media literacy as part of the literacy standards. Whether we agree or not, students will be required to demonstrate their ability to perform academic tasks using technology tools. Students in the GLPP project are getting a head start in their classrooms.

It is an exciting time in education. Educators can’t do it alone; we hope to see more partnerships like GLPP as we continue to inspire our students through innovation in education.

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Melanie Blake is the principal of Dunbar Elementary School.