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Fresno State students, faculty adjust to Common Core

Across the country, students and teachers are adapting to Common Core State Standards. Future teachers at Fresno State are taking notes, as well.

The standards are an educational initiative designed to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following principles of standards-based education reform.

Since its development in 2010, 45 states have fully adopted the new standards.

Dr. Jim Marshall, associate dean of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development, said steps have been taken to help faculty and students adjust to the new standards.

“Both this semester, and the previous year, our entire teacher education faculty has gone through multi-day professional development workshops on Common Core,” Marshall said.

Faculty have also worked in teams to redesign the course syllabi for their credential students to accurately reflect the shift brought on by the new standards, he said. The course assignments and competency tests on the students’ field experience, where students work in the classrooms as student teachers, have undergone modifications.

This includes revising the placement policies and curricula of first-year courses that are in place as a bridge between K-12 and college majors.

Kathleen Godfrey, associate professor in the English department and director of the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project (SJVWP), said Common Core changed the educational system to allow teachers to create a learning environment that pushes students to ask questions and explore their world.

“It’s important that they learn strategies, to ask questions, learn about technology and how to use it efficiently,” she said.

Most of what the standards do for the system is based on the original curricula to which students were exposed. The main idea behind it is to make sure students do not end up developing the idea that the only reason to learn is to take a test, Godfrey said said.

“The standards move us away from simple rote memorization of knowledge to the application and use of that knowledge to address real life issues,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the higher education community can participate in local workshops.  He said it helps current and future teachers understand what is expected of them.

He said it also allows them to discuss what it means for higher education’s faculty and teacher preparatory programs, such as the ones offered on campus.

Throughout November, the third of a four-workshop series dedicated to Common Core instruction will give Fresno State students a chance to partner with local teachers for an online workshop offered through a partnership with Kremen School of Education, the SJVWP and the Arne Nixon Center.

The November symposium, “Understanding Family Histories,” will be accessible all month via Blackboard, Godfrey said.

“You have all month to do the work, but really it’s only about six to eight hours, so whatever works with the person’s schedule,” she said.

The workshops are meant to provide attendees with the opportunity to learn about the standards, Godfrey said

Fresno State students can earn a unit of credit for the workshop series through the Division of Continuing and Global Education. Participants must complete three of the four sessions to obtain the unit. The next workshop will be a face-to-face meeting on Feb. 8, 2014 and will take place in Room 140 of the Kremen School of Education building.