Capitol Alert

State education leader Michael Kirst expects initial test score decline under Common Core

California Board of Education President Michael Kirst, at the California Board of Education in Sacramento on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. He spoke to The Bee’s editorial board Tuesday about the new Common Core State Standards, among other topics.
California Board of Education President Michael Kirst, at the California Board of Education in Sacramento on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. He spoke to The Bee’s editorial board Tuesday about the new Common Core State Standards, among other topics. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Though California has embraced new Common Core State Standards so far, parents and educators may feel differently once students produce lower test scores later this year, said Michael Kirst, president of the state Board of Education.

Kirst expects an immediate dip in test scores as students take Common Core tests for this first time this spring, he said in a wide-ranging discussion with The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board. That has occurred in other states, such as New York, where a backlash ensued when Common Core test results were lower than expected.

He said, however, he expects scores to rise in subsequent years as teachers and students are more prepared. He urged patience and believes it will take until about 2019 before the success of the new standards can truly be determined.

The new Common Core educational standards mean “students can no longer get by with memorizing the rules and not understanding the concepts,” he said. “Our goal is to make it teachable.”

Most California teachers aren’t fully ready to teach to the Common Core standards, Kirst said. He estimates that only about a third of the state’s 275,000 teachers are fully prepared to teach to the standards.

That is about average in terms of Common Core readiness, he said.

School districts have ramped up training to prepare teachers for the new standards, Kirst said. Local school districts received $1.25 billion in state funding last year to specifically train teachers how to teach to the Common Core standards.

“As they see the assessments, the districts are going to realize they have to use a lot more of their money for professional development,” Kirst said.

Despite the hurdles, California is going “full speed ahead,” unlike other states that are backing off or backtracking on testing, Kirst said.

Kirst said that universities, colleges and now the SAT have embraced the new education standards. “One of my pitches to parents is, ‘If you want to fight the Common Core you are fighting the colleges, the universities and the SAT,’” he said.

Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.

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