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Curiously Common: A Blog Series Keeping You Curious about the Common Nature of Education

By Elijah Mercer, CEI Education Policy and Communications Intern

California is shaking up Common Core in a very different way.

California adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, and has been implementing the standards throughout this school year. Unlike the current ‘opt out movement‘ most school states are joining, California is not vehemently opposing the standards. Why you ask? The state has agreed to not hold schools accountable for the first year’s results.

Image published by Education Week

Survey Says’…

Although schools aren’t being held accountable the first year, public opinion still believes teacher performance in the state counts. This opinion was solidified by a recent poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times, University of Southern California, and Dornsife. The poll suggested that ‘teachers receive tenure much too quickly. And believe that performance should matter more than seniority when teachers are laid off,’ (Kerhner 2015).

  1. 53% of respondents believe that teacher layoffs should be based on whether or not a teacher had a poor classroom observation.

  2. Another 26% believe tenure should be based on how well or poor teachers’ students do on standardized testing. And

  3. 38% don’t believe teachers should receive tenure at all.

Previous polls conducted by media outlets such as the Huffington Post revealed similar results.

This opinion mirrors the crafty and limited decision the state superior court judge issued in the Vergara case. Essentially, the superior court judge ruled that increasing tenure from two to three years would be acceptable. Other legal pundits think the case will be overturned on appeal, however. Teacher unions think this law is just another strike against teacher protections.

The Future of Teachers

So what does this say for California and Common Core? If the state’s legislators, legal officials and public believe teacher performance should be tied to tenure, then performance on state tests will undoubtedly matter in future years. And those opting into Common Core requirements will have to face the music.

But will it be all bad music? Filipino-American California Teacher of the Year Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher made it work for her. Marquez is an English as a Second Language (ESL) middle school teacher who throughout her first years in America barely knew English, even as a teacher. She teaches in a rough school district with many of the typical problems teachers encounter: low academic expectations for students, lack of parent involvement, language barriers, and students who others term ‘disruptive.’ However, she thrives on her learning from students and continually honing teaching methods to their needs.

The five LA Unified teachers named Los Angeles County ‘Teachers of the Year’ are in the front row, (left to right): Maricar J. Fortuno Calatán, Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher, Isabel J. Morales, Michael A. Morgan, and Hector V. Perez-Roman. –Image published by LA School Report

One teacher noted that Marquez showed her writing workshop tactics that encouraged each student to become a supportive member of the classroom community. As students wrote, they were instructed to encourage each other as writers to succeed in the classroom. She included examples of different writing lessons to teach in a writing workshop where students practiced writing and listening behaviors, as well as how to participate in a teacher-student writing conference. Thus, alongside Common Core Standards, Marquez, who learned English as a second language herself, has been able to outshine competitors and help her students perform to the highest of their abilities even in a struggling district. There are many across the United States that say that the Common Core has helped set a high bar, that the expectations set by the Common Core have been an impetus for teachers to expect more of students in low performing schools.

Whatever the legal decision may be for California as it relates to teacher tenure, Marquez shows that dedication and close attention to students’ needs can make the difference between a good and great teacher. For many students this has made a world of difference.

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