The Los Banos Unified School District held a parent meeting last week in continued preparation for an overhaul of its testing system and curriculum.
In 2010, California became one of 45 states poised to implement Common Core State Standards — encouraging critical thinking over memorization, embracing collaboration and integrating technology.
About 30 people, mostly educators from both high schools, attended a presentation at Pacheco High School on April 25 explaining Common Core.
“At this time the Common Core state standards for high school cover only English language arts and mathematics with literacy standards for science and social science,” Los Banos High history teacher Mike Stagnaro said. “For all four subjects the hope is that our students are proficient for college and career.”
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Stagnaro said the aim is that within a few years science and social science will have the same emphasis placed on those subjects that math and English do under Common Core.
The switch to Common Core is scheduled in the 2014-15 school year.
Common Core aims to unify educational experiences across the nation so comparisons in education levels can be made more accurately and students are prepared for the “real world.”
Los Banos High math teacher Michael Bartlett gave an example of the difference among students being asked in multiple-choice format how fast a motorist would get somewhere driving at a certain speed as opposed to a question that asks which car a person should buy given gas mileage and estimated repair cost.
The latter question is a pragmatic calculation a car owner would make.
“As soon as you have four multiple-choice answers, you try out each one and see which one works. You’re no longer testing what the students know. You’re testing their ability to find an answer,” Bartlett said.
Instead of multiple choice close-ended test questions, students will be asked to reference material in essay form in a way that integrates several disciplines under the new system. Also, testing will be computer adaptive. That means that as students get questions correct, the queries become more difficult; if there is an uptick in wrong answers, the tests becomes easier.
Los Banos High English teacher Veli Gurgen said 70 percent of the books that will be read in the classroom will be nonfiction when Common Core is implemented. He suggested parents prepare their children by reading nonfiction to them, having magazines and newspapers around the home and watching documentaries on television.
Pacheco High English teacher Gary Bettencourt said the new system is designed to promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills. More information on Common Core is available on Los Banos High School’s website, www.losbanosusd.k12.ca.us/lbhs.