From the superintendent: Looking back on 2013 and forward to 2014
Goodbye 2013, a year of remarkable change for our schools! And welcome 2014, a year which holds enormous promise for our students.
Colusa Unified started 2013 recovering from the tragic loss of two students. But the character and courage of our students, staff and community lead us to a strong finish. The students made the highest single-year academic gains since the State began testing. Both spring and fall sports teams did extremely well, and we were proud to be represented by our band students in a national spotlight. And these are only a few examples of the accomplishments of our students.
On the state level, school funding went from abysmal to optimistic. For the first time in nearly seven years, schools can plan to expand, instead of cut, services and programs for our kids. Our state took a strong leadership stance in cutting off the STAR testing and allowing districts to prepare for Smarter Balanced testing which aligns to the Common Core Standards.
While I certainly lack the prognostication skills of Carnac the Magnificent (those of you under 40 may have to do a Web search to understand this reference), I do have some predictions about the future of public education and CUSD.
The answer is: With uncertainty and a bit of anxiety. The question? How will schools deal with the fact that there is little guidance from the state on how to expend the additional funds supplied by the local control funding formula? LCFF funds have been disbursed to schools even though the state has not made rules for the exact amounts and restrictions on spending. As a result, districts have little guidance until July on how to spend the money, and in the interim, are left to use their best judgment on which programs and services to expand.
The answer is: With uncertainty and significant anxiety. The question? How will schools react to the new Smarter Balanced testing? SB tests are aligned to the Common Core, but districts, school leaders, and teachers have only a very little concrete information to use in preparing students for the nature of the test. The questions assess far beyond the basic academic information. Answers will need to be correct and the students must be capable of offering a clear explanation of how they reached that particular answer.
A very different test from the old multiple choice format.
The answer is: Increased growth and learning. The question? How will students achieve on the new testing when it is finalized and rolled out in spring of 2015? High achieving schools have a very clear notion of what students should know and be able to do. The Common Core standards help focus on increasing the depth of knowledge and narrow the scope. Teachers will teach fewer topics but teach to achieve deeper understanding.
Next year promises to be a great year. With the increase in our resources, a set of clear and consistent standards, and aligned testing, public education has an opportunity to make significant and long-lasting improvements for our kids.
– Dwayne K. Newman is superintendent of Colusa Unified School District.