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Washington school district to implement Common Core
MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 2014 11:50 AM

Students and teachers in Tahoma School District in Washington state will prepare for the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) this academic year. Administrators of the district also plan on implementing the new SMARTER Balanced exams. These tests will assess students on the accumulation of skills and concepts they need to possess in order to meet the Standards for that year. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction gave the district a choice to adopt the new standards and begin implementing the new tests. According to Assistant Superintendent for Tahoma Dawn Wakely in a statement she made, the decision was made after much deliberation.

Changes to Tahoma's testing system
Wakely said that the third- through eighth-grade students in her district will take the SMARTER Balanced exams. Her tenth grade students, however, will not. They will take the High School Proficiency Exams instead. Students in Washington need to pass the proficiency exams in order to be eligible for graduation. According to Wakely, everybody in the district will benefit from these changes.

"The experience is going to be great for our schools and our teachers," Wakeley told the Maple Valley Reporter.

In the past, Tahoma third- and eighth-grade students had to take the Measurements of Student Progress assessments. High school seniors, rather than tenth graders, had to complete the High School Proficiency Exams.

Focusing on college and career readiness
In 2009, the committee of state governors and education experts came together to develop the CCSS. They wanted to provide a clear and consistent set of academic guidelines to help students understand what was expected of them at every level of their education. These guidelines also helped parents and teachers by making them aware of what their students needed to know in order to compete in a global economy. The CCSS emphasizes critical thinking and analysis, and a deeper understanding of mathematics and reading comprehension skills. In July 2011, Washington state adopted the Common Core. Its goal was to have the CCSS fully implemented by the 2014-2015 school year. According to Wakely, the CCSS primarily exists to help American students.

"The whole reason they've made the changes in the standards is to be college and career ready," Wakeley told the Maple Valley Reporter. "It's all about kid learning."

The Common Core only serves as a blueprint for curricula. Students will still have to learn content the State Board of Education deems appropriate. This means teachers will cover fewer topics, but will ensure students learn with depth and come away with a higher level of understanding.