Parents informed about future standards

Katlyn Lee, News Editor

The new standardized testing and the increased load of critical thinking and reading material assigned in classes will be as hard of a transition for parents as it will be for students at Diamond Bar High School. To facilitate the big switch to Common Core, Principal Catherine Real and the Instructional Deans held a parent meeting on Jan. 8, during which they introduced and delineated the imminent educational system.
To begin the night, Principal Real gave a general overview of the goals that schools want to achieve through Common Core. In order to make sure students from all over the world develop relatively at the same pace in their academics, the new standards create checkpoints that students must meet in order to move on and grasp any new material. The new system also strives to encourage more conceptual thinking, and teachers will be required to utilize more non-fiction text and real-life applications in their lesson plans.
“I think the main thing that parents need to know is that teaching, learning, and assessment will look different at schools across the nation. There will be a focus on non-fiction texts, applying knowledge in math to real life problems, and text-based writing,” Real stated via email.
Because these standards cannot be applied to every subject in the same way, the instructional deans each explained how the Common Core will specifically impact their department, particularly in the annual standardized tests. David Hong, instructional dean of the Science Technology Engineering and Math Department, shared the expected changes for his department. He pointed out that with the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, there will be no “answer getting” like in the former multiple-choice tests, but instead, students must fully comprehend the math concepts that they will be tested on. Although a bit concerned, Hong is confident that math teachers can successfully prepare students for the new assessments.
“These are exciting times to teach, and in my case, be a dean,” Hong stated.
For the English and Language Arts Department, the Common Core standards strive to teach 21st Century themes and work force literacy. This means students will be learning the vocabulary and the specific language skills necessary in any work field. Instructional Dean Julian Rodriguez further explained that there will be three major shifts: getting straight to the facts, answering more text-dependent questions, and teaching complex texts and academic language. Although the practical applications of these “shifts” will be left to individual teachers, the main focus is to have students acquire English skills that they can apply to more practical situations and develop a more critical mind when analyzing literature.
The new standards are also designed to have students read between the lines to comprehend in-depth material. Rodriguez clarified this idea by giving an example of a former test question, which asked the student to identify the main purpose of a poem about Lincoln. He then juxtaposed the question with a Common Core-based question, which asked students to choose whether each statement listed describes the author’s purpose for the poem. Not only does this force students to critically read the text, but it also teaches students that the English language and writing has depth that cannot be generalized to only one characteristic.
The concepts of critical analysis and examination of multiple perspectives can likewise be seen in the Health and Humanities Department, which would cover DBHS’ history and elective courses. Instructional Dean Gabriel Aguilar explained that students will not be tested on mere historical details, but instead will be asked to describe different perspectives and viewpoints supported by historical evidence. For example, instead of being asked to name the location photojournalist Dorothea Lange mainly worked in, students will be given background information about Lange and her photographs and will then be asked to answer a series of short response questions using the evidence provided.
“[The CCSS] has created an increased focus on literacy skills in all subjects. This is different than the previous standards, which placed an emphasis on knowing ‘content’ in a subject, rather than focusing on skills that support student learning,” Aguilar said via email.
By holding the parent night, administrators hope to make sure they thoroughly inform the parents about Common Core and clarify any aspects that seem obscure. At the end of the night, parents were encouraged to stay informed and supportive in their children’s progress in the Common Core.
“Basically, we haven’t had new standards since 1997, so it’s been 16 to 17 years. The last set of standard that we had, there wasn’t parent involvement outlined in it. This one, there seems to be a little bit more parent involvement outlined. I hope that more parents continue to be involved, especially as suggested by the standards, which want parents to have conversations with kids and be informed about what’s being taught and how it’s being taught,” Rodriguez said.