Mary AlberSpecial to the Bonanza

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May 18, 2012
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Guest column: Education tsunami hitting North Lake Tahoe

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — While most people avoid the evocative “tsunami” analogy, our WCSD leaders are bravely using it to describe the education changes now coming upon us.On March 29, attendees of the Tahoe Speaker Series on Education were the first in Washoe County to hear about the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) that are being rolled out in our schools and across the nation. Thanks to area superintendent, Nancy Sanger, and performance director, Kelly Humphreys, for bringing three very busy professionals to educate us on the shifts underway toward 21st century learning. Chief Academic Officer, Scott Bailey, first shared highlights of the ambitious WCSD Envision 2015 goals that include development of 21st century skills (see video of Bernie Trilling’s talk last November). He indicated that the next generation standards define content and capacities that students need to be successful in the rapidly changing and unpredictable future into which they will graduate. The learning expectations are now more aligned through the grades while calling for greater depth of understanding initially in math and language arts with science and social studies to follow. The new standards aim to prepare students for the rigors of college course work (with less remediation needed) and enable graduates to compete for the highly skilled and fastest growing jobs of the global economy.Kindra Fox, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, described how the new standards currently being implemented evoke stronger writing and speaking skills, more critical and reflective thinking, and applied literacy in social studies and science topics. In math, while some concepts are accelerated, greater emphasis is placed on solving real world problems and learning to think mathematically. Language Arts standards will be fully implemented this coming year while math standards are being rolled in from lower grades up through 2014. Teachers are now working to develop cross-curricular applied projects and use more “formative” assessments.This is where Paul Richter, Director of Assessments, stepped up to describe how the new assessments (SBA) will go beyond traditional “summative” tests of content knowledge to provide information that helps teachers adapt their teaching to the needs of individual students. This becomes possible when assessments are fully on-line and “adaptive”. This means that each student’s questions will change depending on how they answer the prior questions. The new assessment programs will also be inter-active so that students can manipulate figures and edit content. Math problem solving will allow for multiple solutions while open response questions will allow students to practice and demonstrate their writing and speaking skills.To learn more about these changes, watch speakers on the new Tahoe Education Forum YouTube channel: thanks to student film maker, William Cory, for volunteering his time and talent to film, edit, and post these videos. As a 9th grader who has already won awards for short films he has written and directed, Will demonstrates a passion and commitment to a career path that I hope many students can experience during their school years.Do you wonder how school leaders plan to implement digitally-based assessments and accelerated, deeper learning while their budgets are being dramatically decreased ($40M less next year)? It’s going to take a village of people who care — like us.To help ensure that our local schools move quickly and successfully into the 21st century – and surf out front of this tsunami of change, please consider participating in current and forthcoming initiatives:1) Complete the WCSD Climate Survey (current parents received e-mail);2) Attend the Incline Schools Forum on May 21st with school leaders, IGSC, and ISEAF representatives to hear about this year’s progress, plans for next year, and Qandamp;A;3) Participate in the 2020 Vision process for education stakeholders facilitated by the NV Rural Development Council on Monday June 18 from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Chateau;4) Attend future Tahoe Speaker Series on Education events in the fall on supporting outstanding education in our community.It takes a village to educate a child! Please contact me if you’d like to help:— Mary Alber, PhD, MBA, combines her background in information and technology strategy with degrees in transformative learning and change in humans and organizations to help advance education for all.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 18, 2012 12:47PM Published May 18, 2012 12:46PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.