Federal Way schools prepare for new state standards

While Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) students and parents still adjust to Standards Based Education (SBE) and Standards Based Grading (SBG), the district is already prepping for the new set of state standards.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are set to take effect in 2014-15. According to the district, however, Federal Way's transition to SBE and SBG means the transition to the new standards will be that much easier.

"Federal Way Public Schools is ahead of the curve on this implementation," said Marie Verhaar, director of Standards Based Curriculum and Instruction, during the March 27 school board meeting. "As we all know, districts in Washington state, according to the mandate, presented to us by OSPI and Randy Dorn, will fully implement the new standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics by 2014-15. While that seems like a long way away for some of us, it's really just around the corner. We know that third- through 11th-grade students will be assessed on these new standards in 2014-15 school year. So this year's kindergartners will be our first class assessed on the new state standards."

CCSS is described as defining "the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs" by the website.

Verhaar and FWPS feel the district's use of SBE is already aligned with that state goal. Verhaar said standards-based grading, assessment and instruction have FWPS on surer footing already for the transition, along with the academic acceleration policy.

The transition to SBE and its use of Power Standards were derived from the CCSS, Verhaar noted.

"Last year, as our language arts and mathematics teams came to the table to identify the Power Standards, we used the Common Core State Standards and laid them right next to our Power Standards. We looked at the Common Core Standards…to see are we picking standards, are we selecting and identifying standards that are also essential in the Common Core."

A transition team has also been put together. Federal Way hopes to avoid some of the confusion among staff, students and parents that occurred when SBE was rolled out. The 37-member team has already been at work, Verhaar noted, meeting a number of times in March, with the goal of being able to present a comprehensive transition plan to the board in April.

"We're very excited about this transition. Again, we're moving into it very purposefully, very methodically," Verhaar said.

School board member Danny Peterson expressed his concerns that parents and students might experience sticker shock with this transition.

"How different do your see our Power Standards and those types of things changing? Are parents going to see a drastic change?" he asked.

Verhaar said the transition should be smooth this time out, and that the most noticeable change will be an increase in rigor for students.

"What we'll notice is wording changes. Although you are going to see an increased level of vigor. The Common Core State Standards do provide more complexity," Verhaar replied. "The differences are not monumental in terms of starting all over again and learning something new. They're similar in terms of content, but more complex in terms of rigor."

Peterson also expressed concern about the effect of the transition on teachers, which was one of the major roadblocks the district experienced when SBE and SBG rolled out. Verhaar assured Peterson that the transition team is aimed at making sure that experience isn't repeated.

"That is the game plan. The professional development required by this change is pretty huge, so we have to provide our teachers with professional development to really understand the differences and commonalities, and also give them some time to really understand them," she said.

Learn more

To learn more about Common Core State Standards, click here.

To learn more about the above-mentioned education and grading policies in Federal Way schools, click here.

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