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Common Core Education Standards Rolled Out Early In Chula Vista

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Children raise their hands in class.

Educators say criticism of the Common Core initiative for schools can be chalked up to confusion about what it really is.

The Common Core Initiative, which sets national curriculum standards in math and English, will be changing the look of homework and teaching in California this fall.

The change has been praised and vilified, and many parents and students don't seem to know exactly what to expect from the new effort. At least one school district in San Diego County, however, is ahead of the game.

Special Feature What Is Common Core?

Every school district in the county has been working to get ready Common Core standards, but the Chula Vista Elementary School District rolled out the standards early.

“We’ve just gone Common Core 100 percent from the very beginning of the year,” said Dr. Jeffrey Thiel, the district’s executive director of operations and instruction.

“Two years ago, we did K-1, which means we told teachers and we worked with teachers, saying … instead of looking at your California state standards, we want you to look at Common Core standards and base your instruction off of those standards.”

Common Core is aimed at teaching students to think critically and reason through problems. Some parents and lawmakers roundly criticize it, saying it is unnecessary or a plot by the federal government to seize control of education. Mostly, parents complain that it will add stress to students’ lives — and their own.

Thiel said much of the criticism can be chalked up to the confusion that comes with any major change, which Chula Vista Elementary School District has addressed with training.

“Teachers are really pretty excited about it. Parents as well — the more parents find out about it, and the more training we have done with parents, the more on board they have been.”

Thiel said the goal of the Common Core curriculum is to help with deeper understanding rather than rote memorization, and students are thriving.

“We showed a kid this problem and the fifth-grader said, 'Now I know that when you divide by a fraction, you get a bigger number!' So, like, if you’ve got 5 divided by one-half, the question is: How many halves are in 5? And the answer’s 10, right?

“But if you don’t ask yourself that question and you just do it as a procedure and you flip and multiply and get 10, they don’t know what’s going on," Thiel said. "But if you show them what’s going on, and just ask it as a question, you don’t even have to do the procedure.”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative was developed by a group of governors and education experts. It is a state-led attempt to standardize education across the country.

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