Southern Oregon school districts prepare for Common Core Standards

, Posted: Thu, October 31 2013 at 7:05 PM, Updated: Thu, October 31 2013 at 7:45 PM

Ashland Sophomore, Abigail Mizera prides herself on being a good student, but she'll be the first to admit, there's one part of her education she just can't seem to wrap her brain around. 

"A lot of times I'll have to re-take a test because I just get so nervous and i'm not a good tester."

Abigail is part of a guinea pig class of Oregon sophomores, the state's first class to take the nation's newest standardized test. They're two, three-hour tests in reading, writing, and math that students can only take one time, and hold a lot of weight when it comes to graduating or not.

"It's kind of really scary."

It's called the Smarter Balanced Assessment. And it's intended to measure how well student's are learning newly adopted common core standards.

The federal government passed the common core initiative in 2007 aiming to promote critical thinking instead of memorization. 

Ashland High School Principal, Michelle Zundel says it's a requires a lot from students, and educators.

"We have a significant challenge here and i appreciate the man on the moon challenge what i would really like now is the funding to accomplish it."

Districts in Southern Oregon slowly started implementing common core in 2010. Debbie Connolly, Medford's head of curriculum, says the standards are good.

"Rigor is good we want to hold our kids to high standards we want them to leave the district with the skills they need to be successful in life."

But Connolly says it's been hard to find text books and teaching materials that match the common core standards, and the money isn't there. She says neither are the computers to give the tests that start next spring. 

"We physically don't have enough lab space and I know other schools in the country are running up against the same thing."

Principal Zundel says students will need more time and extra more help preparing for the test, which amounts to another cost.

"We've raised the bar significantly higher. We need to lower class sizes, we need to hire more teachers, we need to have a really significant summer school."

Districts are applying for grants, and putting together safety nets for students like Abigail Mizera. Mizera, who's active in theater says she's preparing to have less time for plays, so she can have more time to study.

"I think it's just too much to a have a three hour test to prepare for on top of all other the other things I'm doing my junior year. That's just really really scary."


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