Common Core Training Session Draws Overflow Crowd
Brenda Iasevoli | August 26, 2013
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Nearly 1,400 LA Unified educators flooded the California State University Dominguez Hills campus in Carson on Saturday for a free conference on the Common Core State Standards. “Launch LA Common Core” was organized by Teach Plus, a nonprofit that focuses on professional development for teachers.
The event was held as states are scrambling to train teachers in implementing the new standards. The demand for training is high—about 4,000 teachers wanted to attend the conference at Dominguez Hills. In the first 24 hours of sign-up, 1,700 teachers crashed the online reservation system.
“It’s great to see both the appetite from teachers who want to attend and from those who want to share common core-aligned lessons that they’re already doing in classrooms,” says John Lee of the mostly teacher-led conference. He is the executive director of Teach Plus Los Angeles, which received 100 applications from educators looking to lead training sessions.
Teachers from district and charter schools lucky enough to gain entrance chose from more than 60 workshops in math, language arts, social studies, science and technology. There were also sessions for teachers of special education and English language learners. Some workshop titles reflected the impression that these are tough standards: “Ready or Not, Common Core Is Here: What Every ELA Teacher Needs to Know” and “Conquering the Common Core Using Cognitive Guided Instruction in Mathematics. “
In a workshop titled “Common Core Shifts in Teaching Practice & Learning,” teachers tackled a word problem that instructed them to design the biggest and smallest dog pen possible, using 64 feet of fence. Teachers drew narrow, rectangular pens, square pens and even circular pens. As they worked, they talked about how the problem has “real-world application” and how they would have to provide background knowledge to students who don’t know the meaning of “pen.”
Volunteers explained how they solved the problem. One teacher held up a notebook showing her calculations and drawings. She found all the multiples of 64 before attempting to create the different-shaped perimeters of each pen. Then she found their areas. The goal of Common Core: to get students beyond blind calculation and into understanding concepts.
The teachers in the room were most impressed with the way Bonnie Kwon, a 3rd grade teacher at Knox Elementary, solved the problem. To make the dog pen even bigger, she used a wall of a house as part of the perimeter. “That’s outside-the-box thinking,” one teacher said.
“I never learned like this before,” said Candice Smith, a K–1 teacher at 95th Street Elementary. “When I was a kid, we just learned the formulas for calculating perimeter and area. We threw out the dog!”
All in all, teachers appeared undaunted by the tough task ahead. Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy acknowledged in his opening address that teaching the Common Core standards would be “unbelievably difficult.”
“We’re going to fail; we’re going to stumble,” Deasy said. “But if we are afraid to stumble, we are not going to succeed. The best advice I can give you: Stay calm and teach on.”
The top four presenters at Dominguez Hills, as named by attendee surveys, will have their lessons videotaped and uploaded to a new LA Unified professional development website. Teachers will have access to videos and other teaching resources.
The educator who led the most popular training session will give his or her workshop at an upcoming Teach Plus conference in Boston.