California Adopted the Common Standards—Sans Preface

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 28, 2010 2 min read
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When California adopted the common core standards last month, it didn’t accept the preface material, which includes an introduction and spells out how to apply the standards to English-language learners or students with disabilities. An advocate of ELLs highlighted this fact yesterday at a conference about implementation of the common core standards for ELLs that was hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and several other education groups.

Conference speaker Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, the executive director of Californians Together, said that the California state board of education “refused to adopt the preface.” She expressed concern that the standards adopted by California “have nothing then about ELLs or special education.”

But in a conference call with me today, Kathy Radtkey-Gaither, California’s Undersecretary of Education, and Sue Stickel, who was the project director for California’s standards commission, said state board members didn’t adopt the preface because they thought it would make implementation of the standards more confusing, given that the board members augmented the standards by 15 percent before adopting them.

Radtkey-Gaither confirmed that Bonnie Reiss, California’ Secretary of Education, who is an appointee of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, recommended that the board not adopt the preface. The standards commission, however, recommended that the state board adopt the preface along with the standards.

Radtkey-Gaither said board members felt that the introductory material was meant to match the common core standards and wouldn’t necessarily be a good match for the standards as customized for California. “I think the state board wanted to be cautious and not create any confusion for the framework commission and curriculum commission who might come along,” Radtkey-Gaither explained.

She stressed that the board’s not adopting the preface won’t have any impact on how ELLs or students with disabilities are served in her state. “We are going to serve these students. We have a long history of providing universal access.” She noted that California has more ELLs than any other state. (The state has 1.5 million ELLs.)

Stickel said that while much of the front matter for the standards is “wonderful stuff,” it is more suited for a state framework for the standards. She said that California’s current frameworks stress universal access for students and future ones will do the same.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.