Superintendent's Monthly Message
 January/February 2014


There is nothing like replacing last year’s calendar with a shiny new 2014 calendar to bring about the realization that it is not only a new year for everyone  but also a new day for education. For the first time in over a decade, California has opted out of giving the annual student performance assessment, the STAR test, and has joined 40 other states in offering the online assessments designed to measure student outcomes against the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Although there is still a year to go before the standards and assessment officially roll out nationwide, USD is already deep into unpacking the standards and training teachers so our students will be prepared to take the CCSS on line field test this spring.

 The Common Core is being heralded as a sea change in American education, shifting the focus toward independent thinking, inquiry, and problem solving. Michael Kirst, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University and President of the California State Board of Education stated, “Common Core is a huge game changer. It is one of the most important movements in my 50 year career.”  In 2009, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers commissioned the creation of a national math and literacy curriculum. As of today, 45 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Unlike previous state standards, which were unique to every state in the country, the CCSS provides high standards and assessments that are consistent across all states and are internationally benchmarked to ensure that they were built on the best and highest standards in existence.

 Rigor is the word most people use when defining the change from the existing standards to the CCSS. Rigor in the standards isn’t about working harder; it is about complex thinking – thinking that synthesizes existing knowledge to create something new or solve problems. Creativity is an integral part of complex thinking and environments play an important role in fostering creativity. The shift to the CCSS concurrent with the need to upgrade and repair our existing facilities has provided USD an opportunity to evaluate the role learning environments have in supporting student success.

 For the past several months, we have been engaged in a collaborative process to improve the learning environments of our schools. Our goal is to design schools that will support innovative, state-of-the-art teaching and learning in order to ensure student success on the rigorous new Common Core State Standards. We will be finalizing our facilities improvement plans in the next several weeks and I know that you will be as excited as I am to see what 21st century classrooms will look like in Union School District!