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Exploring teacher preparation programs in California

FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2014 12:00 PM

The 45 states that adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the District of Columbia will face numerous challenges while implementing the CCSS. Hard-line opponents of the Standards believe the federal government will use the CCSS to take over education. Some American students will face very difficult academic standards that they might not meet. Teachers remain in the middle of these struggles.

For years, many public academic institutions in the U.S. used the No Child Left Behind standards to prepare students for the world after high school. The CCSS focuses on a deeper understanding of course material and critical thinking. This shift in priority will test many educators' ability to teach by demanding different approaches and methodologies to subject content. States like California believe that preparing teachers as early as the college level will help successfully implement the Common Core in the following years.

Different ways of teaching
Educators will have to evaluate what they know about teaching and the different ways to instruct. In the past, many teachers relied primarily on lectures and textbooks to fill their lesson plans. In today's classroom, educators will need to take a more hands-on approach. They will have to use interactive participation techniques and various group projects. Teachers who marginalize other subjects and place priority on their classes will need to develop interdisciplinary skills. They will need to learn how to collaborate with educators and develop different ways of asking questions that promote problem solving. According to Cynthia Grutzik, president of the California Council on Teacher Education and associate dean of education at California State University, the new paradigm for teachers changes everything.

"We're talking about major shifts in pedagogy," Grutzik told Ed Source. "It has forced us to restructure our program."

Guiding new teachers
In California, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing accredits teacher education programs and sets standards for academic instructor credentials. The commission began providing some guidance to future educators in March 2013 through multiple teacher preparation programs. The organization revised the performance standards that allow teachers to become licensed, showing educators what skills they will need to successfully implement the CCSS. Teachers have until the summer of 2014 to provide the commission with a summary of the steps taken to change their curricula and methodologies to fit the content of the Common Core.

Collaborating with other disciplines
In 2009, education experts and state governors developed the CCSS. They aimed to help future generations excel on an international level by increasing the difficulty of public school academics. The CCSS focus on complex reading and math skills, and critical thinking and problem solving. Overall, they believed a more challenging, comprehensive education would create students capable of leadership after high school. Some college professors believe in order to get the most out of the Common Core, K-12 reading and math teachers need to collaborate.

However, while collaboration seems appropriate in theory, actually working on interdisciplinary activities in California's education classrooms presents more of a challenge. For now, only math professors have frameworks approved by the State Board of Education. This framework lays out a set of principles, content, and the priority of each topic. The initial guide has a detailed description of what students should know in every grade and discipline such as algebra, geometry and calculus. Until a framework is approved for the English language/arts department, learning how to work with other educators in the context of the Common Core will remain difficult. While a statewide English education framework remains in the development stages, professors move forward within their own universities. Cal State Long Beach's education program began focusing on interdisciplinary collaboration more than a year ago. People who plan on teaching middle or high school need to know how to teach reading, no matter what subject they plan on instructing.