Parents Schooled in Common Core Methods

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From left: School leaders Bill Landsiedel, Darlene Messinger, Sherine Smith, Melinda Grace and Betsy Jenkins.

By Kate Rogers, Special to the Independent

Laguna school Supt. Sherine Smith and other district leaders discussed the newly adopted Common Core curriculum standards that emphasize analytic thinking over memorization during Coffee Break’s kick-off session last week.

Full implementation of the standards is expected in the next academic year.

Top of the World Principal Ron LaMotte assured parents that these standards are
“not that different.”  For example, the writing standards are designed to go beyond traditional literature analysis and train children to use and cite different source materials.

Chris Duddy, El Morro Elementary’s principal, discussed standards testing. First, a “benchmark” assessment will gauge students literacy and math fluency.  As teaching progresses, “formative” assessments are given to provide feedback for teachers on how well students have mastered a particular concept.  Finally, “summative” assessments are given to see what students have mastered in total. Assessments are intended to provide guidance for teachers, he said.

Some traditional statewide academic testing will likely be halted, replaced by new online testing. She assured parents that students will be trained to understand the new testing style.   (Practice tests can be viewed on

Thurston Principal Jenny Salberg described some of the standards-related support available to teachers. At Thurston, for example, Monday Core Groups develop cross-curricular projects such as integrating mathematical concepts of longitude and latitude into the social studies materials.

High school Principal Dr. Joanne Culverhouse reported that “teachers are excited” and students “are getting passionate” in discussions stimulated by the approach of Common Core instruction. For example, instead of studying Native American myths in language arts, kids read a historic letter about Chief Seattle, which inspired the creation of a children’s book.  They then read a New York Times article which refutes the letter, and shows that the children’s book is based on false information, Culverhouse said.

Parents can go to for specific detail on curriculum changes.

Kate Rogers is a Laguna Beach parent.


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