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Curriculum, technology changes ahead for Hart district

Posted: January 17, 2013 7:19 p.m.
Updated: January 17, 2013 7:19 p.m.

Local school officials are eyeing curriculum changes that will take the focus away from memorization and place it on analysis and application.

That was the word Wednesday night during a special William S. Hart Union High School District meeting to discuss new scholastic standards.

The new focus will be on English and language arts, mathematics and literacy with particular emphases on four primary skills: communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, Hart district officials said.

This includes a revised approach to teaching literacy with the focus on speech and critical listening skills, according to Vicki Engbrecht, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services.

Much of the emphasis of the new standards is on critical thinking. Rather than memorizing and reciting information, students will be required to critically assess and examine what they are learning, Engbrecht said.

This approach applies to mathematical standards as well, since students will learn both how to use mathematical equations and formulas and how to apply them in a real-world context.

The district’s curriculum changes are part of a broader effort to standardize education in schools across the nation.

The effort, known as Common Core State Standards, outlines specific performance benchmarks for students based on grade level. Forty-five states, including California, have accepted the standards.

The new standards will be implemented in the 2014-2015 school year.

Accompanying these new standards will be a different approach to statewide standardized testing.

Unlike existing traditional paper assessments, the new tests would be primarily computer-based and adaptive, said Michele Krantz, the district’s director of professional development and special programs.

An adaptive test is one that generates questions tailored to a student’s performance on a test. If a student is correctly answering grade-level assessment questions, the test questions will become more difficult. If test achievement is lower than grade level, the test will adjust accordingly.

This will allow the district more substantive information about student proficiency, Krantz said.

“These tests are really going to allow our educators to hone in on where students may be struggling,” Krantz said.

The computer-based assessments correlate to a larger district effort to expand technological offerings. The new standards place an emphasis on integration of technology into classrooms.

The district will do this, in part, by expanding student access to the Internet with the goal of having wireless Internet access in every district classroom by the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

Doing so will cost the district an estimated $2.86 million, Engbrecht said.

The district is also examining ways to offer computing resources to all its students, either by providing Internet-capable devices to each or having students bring their own devices from home.

District-provided devices could cost as much as $8 million a year, Engbrecht said.

“That’s the goal, that’s the dream, that’s the wish,” Engbrecht said.

The Hart district governs all public junior and senior high schools in the Santa Clarita Valley.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney





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