Summer school for California teachers: learning to teach Common Core

File photo: Teachers can sign up for one-day workshops around California that aim to better prepare them to teach the learning standards known as the Common Core.
File photo: Teachers can sign up for one-day workshops around California that aim to better prepare them to teach the learning standards known as the Common Core.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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A coalition of education groups is holding free summer workshops for teachers statewide to address a major challenge with the learning standards known as the Common Core: many instructors don't know how to teach it.

Teachers are invited to the one-day learning summits billed as “EdCamp” taking place at 33 different locations statewide on July 31. The sessions aim to engage 20,000 teachers across the education community on teaching the standards, according to Shane Martin, dean of the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University.

He said almost 13,000 teachers have already signed up.

When states adopted the Common Core standards starting in 2010, there was no accompanying one-size-fits-all curriculum guide that teachers could follow.

Instead, the authors of the new standards provided guiding principles and left it up to educators to figure out how best to teach concepts like critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration.

In March, Michael Kirst, president of the California Board of Education, told KPCC that about 50 percent of the state’s teachers were ill-prepared to teach the Common Core. The coalition of groups is trying to change that.

“The big idea for this summit is going to be teachers working with, talking with [other] teachers about the implementation of the Common Core, which as we know is a huge game changer in California,” Martin said.

LMU is one of the organizing groups, along with the Cal State University system, New Teacher Center, and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU).

Martin said the "EdCamp model” will follow the same learning ethos as the Common Core — teachers will share and learn from each other.

“Some districts are out in front of this, other districts are waiting to see how the roll out happens," he said. "This summit is going to have a huge impact on getting California [teachers] ready." 

After years of teaching to tests, educators now have a different set of concepts to impart. They need to let students direct the learning, for example. According to Martin, the summit will help teachers rethink what they do.

“At the core of the Common Core is the idea of teachers really thinking about the art and practice of teaching,” Martin said. “The big ideas in Common Core are about deep thinking for students, really problem-solving at a deeper level. So there is not really a cookie-cutter approach to this.”

With the California Department of Education on board, organizers see the summit as the beginning of ongoing, statewide networking among teachers that can lead to better implementation of the Common Core in their classrooms.

Martin promises teachers it will be worth a vacation day: “They’ll walk away with a tool kit of resources and ideas around the Common Core.”

Some summit locations are sold out. But LMU and other Southern California universities are hosting one site at the Pasadena Convention Center and Martin said there is still space for interested educators to sign up.