SVHS and the Transition to the Common Core

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The transition to the Common Core standards at Sonoma Valley High School, with the support of district and site administration, has been teacher-driven and teacher-led.

The English, history and science departments, as well as our career and technical education, world language and elective teachers at Sonoma Valley High, began work on the transition to the Common Core standards as early as the 2011-12 school year. These groups of teachers went through the new Common Core Standards and assessed how much change, modification, or alteration of their current course curriculum would need to be made in order to successfully transition to the Common Core.

During the 2012-13 school year, Nancy Case-Rico from Sonoma State University’s School of Education, was hired to help facilitate the Common Core roll out at Sonoma Valley High School. The science, history and English departments participated in the Common Core Lead Program, which was designed and facilitated by Case-Rico. Our teachers collaborated together over the course of four, packed professional development days to determine how to help transition their respective departments to the Common Core Standards.

For the remaining staff members at Sonoma Valley High School who did not participate in the Common Core Lead Program, they either attended a one day Common Core Boot Camp or a four-day Common Core Workshop at Sonoma State University over the summer. Both of these seminars were organized by Case-Rico, while my colleague, English department chair Alison Manchester, and I, participated as co-presenters at the SSU workshop.

Over the summer of 2013, each department at the high school had three professional development days to work with their colleagues on creating Common Core units and performance assessments that model the new Common Core state assessments that will be given in April of this year. This additional curricular development time was invaluable.

We have begun to think about the next stage of assessments as well. Last fall, the English department created and administered a Smarter Balance Performance Task to our students, and individual teachers from the science and visual performing arts departments have also administered SB Performance Tasks. During the current semester, SVHS history department members have developed and will administer a Performance Task Assessment for ninth through 12th grade social studies classes. All of this curriculum was created completely by Sonoma Valley High teachers.

This month, we had a staff development day in which members of the SVHS, Altimira and Adele Harrison staff presented a series of seminars to help the rest of their colleague’s transition to the Common Core. To put it plainly, our secondary teachers are stepping up to the challenge of Common Core and excelling.

This is due in no small part to Case-Rico, who is now employed by the district. Nancy’s energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise has been the linchpin of our hard work on the Common Core transition. Without her efforts and leadership, I know the teachers within our district would not be as far along in the Common Core transition as they are right now.

I am confident that the work that has and continues to be done by teachers at the high school, and at Adele Harrison and Altimira middle schools, will result in a full, successful transition to the Common Core Standards, as long as we continue to rely on and empower the professionals that already occupy our classrooms.

• • •

Andy Gibson heads up the history department at SVHS and he graduated from the high school in 1997.

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