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Dr Collins Message (Mar '14)

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Dr Collins Message (Dec '13)

Dr Collins Message (Nov '13)

Assembly Bill 484 (Oct '13)

Dr Collins Message (Sep '13)

Thoughts on Common Core
(Sep 16, 2013)

Dr Collins Message (Aug '13)

May 2013 PUSD & Common Core State Standards


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John CollinsJohn P. Collins, Ed.D.

November 2013


Dear Parents, Students and Community Members,

As most of us know from our life and work experiences, the change process is not always easy. This is especially true for an organization responsible for educating students and preparing them for college and career while the change is taking place. “Like changing tires on a moving car,” is how one observer describes the process. “You have to watch the destination while also keeping in mind the car and the people in it; and it’s not just one tire, it’s several.”

With the Board’s approval of our District’s revised Mission Statement - College and Career Readiness for All Students - PUSD began a Common Core implementation process that impacts our curriculum, teaching practices, instructional materials and assessments. It is a process that will ultimately transform student learning. CCSS are standards in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics designed to prepare students for the rigor and performance expectations of college and the workplace. CCSS support PUSD’s Mission of College and Career Readiness.

To assist in this important work, PUSD and the Poway Federation of Teachers have formed the PUSD Teaching and Learning Steering Committee. This team of instructional leaders, which includes both administrators and classroom teachers, is currently engaged in a process that will lay out how Common Core will be implemented in Poway Unified over the next few years. The Committee is aligning its work with our three District-wide Goals:

  • Ensure each student engages in a challenging 21st Century learning experience.
  • Develop and maintain communications systems that create collective engagement among all stakeholders.
  • Create a collaborative culture of continuous learning for all staff.


Implementation of the California Common Core State Standards should not and will not happen overnight. But I can assure you that the members of the Teaching and Learning Steering Committee possess the knowledge, skills and shared commitment that will ensure its success.

I encourage you to visit our District webpage, our Facebook page, and Twitter account for ongoing updates on the “transformational” work of the Teaching and Learning Steering Committee. Please also check out the variety of materials available for the community on our transition to the Common Core. The newest resource, a top ten things to know about Common Core for our parents, is also attached to this message.
In this month of thanks, I thank each of you for your active participation in our District and community and wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Dr. John Collins, Superintendent



October, 2013


It is the intent of the Legislature that the state’s system of public accountability be more closely aligned with both the public’s expectations for public education and the workforce needs of the state’s economy. – Assembly Bill 484


Dear PUSD Parents and Students,


Our Governor has recently signed Assembly Bill 484, the State Superintendent’s sponsored legislation to make the state’s student assessment system reflect the California Common Core State Standards (CCCSS). As we have discussed in previous communications, the CCCSS are an integral part of education for the 21st century, preparing each student for college and career readiness upon graduation.


The new law, AB 484, suspends most Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) assessments for the current school year, allowing school districts to prepare for and transition to the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) assessments, which are slated for administration statewide in the 2014-15 school year.


For the current school year, AB 484 requires districts to administer field tests of the Smarter Balanced assessments. Field tests serve as “tests of the tests” allowing experts to discern the accuracy and reliability of individual test questions before finalizing the assessments for full-scale use. As such, no student test scores will be produced or reported for this year.


PUSD piloted these SBAC field tests at several schools last spring and has already initiated detailed planning for implementation of the SBAC field test, across the District, this spring.

While we will continue to communicate these processes and plans throughout the school year, please see below for some answers to frequently asked questions. As the transition progresses within our District and across the State, more detailed information will be available through these messages on our website and through exciting new social media platforms. In the months ahead we will also be conducting community education forums to inform and update our community about the CCCSS and SBAC.


PUSD continues its transition to our new state standards with the implementation of SBAC assessments, part of our excellent tradition of preparing our students to be active, productive lifelong learners in the 21st century.



Q: Will any students be taking the STAR exam this year?
A: Yes, students in grades 5, 8 and 10 will take the existing science tests for their grade levels. Students in grade 10 will take the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) and students in Grade 11 will take Early Assessment Program (EAP) in English and Math. Students with special needs in grades 2 – 11 who are currently being tested using the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) will take the CAPA test again in Spring, 2014.

Q: Will all students be taking the new SBAC assessments?
A: The District is working to have all students in grades 3 – 8 and 11 take the SBAC field test – in either English Language Arts/Literacy or Math.

Q: Will I receive any scores from the new SBAC assessments my student takes this spring?
A: No, these field tests are meant for validation purposes only – to determine if the test is accurately measuring what it is designed to measure.

Q: How does the SBAC assessment differ from the previous STAR tests?
A: The new assessments are expected to emphasize critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving - the teaching and learning needed to prepare all students for the demands of college and the modern workplace.

SBAC assessments are also a growth measure, which differs from the static nature of the previous STAR assessments. From 2014-15 on, parents will be able to compare student scores from year to year to measure their student’s growth as well as overall proficiency.

Q: If I will not be receiving state test scores this year, how will I determine my student’s progress?
A: Our District has established a number of rigorous site-based measures and benchmarks for our students including course or grade-level finals, formative classroom assessments, trimester writing, and progress and final grades. We will also continue administering the existing MAP test at our elementary and middle schools.

Q: How can I help my student prepare for the new SBAC assessments?
A: The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium provides a comprehensive website (http://www.smarterbalanced.org/smarter-balanced-assessments/) with answers to frequently asked questions, fact sheets and links to test blueprints.

Due to the computer-based nature of the tests, students will receive technology training at school. Reinforcing that training at home will also benefit students.

Q: How will these changes impact testing for special education students?
A: Special Education students who are tested using the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) will not take part in the 2013-14 SBAC field testing.

Q: Will the District technology infrastructure support the new testing system?
A: Yes. For several years, our District has been expanding our bandwidth and replacing older computers to meet current instructional needs. These changes will also support the new testing system.



John Collins, Superintendent
Address to the Board of Education, 9/16/13

September, 2013


"Education is preparation for the real world.  From the moment a student joins our District, no matter what their age or grade-level, we begin the work of preparing that child for College and Career Readiness upon graduation. This is why the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are so important, and why we must remain committed to implementing them.  It is important to remember that these are standards - a set of expectations for what students need to know and be able to do. The CCSS is not a curriculum, and, despite claims to the contrary, leave decisions about how students are taught where they belong, in the hands of local districts and teachers."

Dear PUSD Parents and Students,

On Monday night, September 16, the Board of Education reaffirmed the District’s Mission of College and Career Readiness for All Students and adopted three District Goals:

  • Ensure each student engages in a challenging 21st Century learning experience.
  • Develop and maintain communications systems that create collective engagement among all stakeholders.
  • Create a collaborative culture of continuous learning for all staff.

At this meeting, the Board of Education also voiced their support for implementing the California Common Core State Standards in PUSD classrooms.  Several teachers addressed the Board, describing CCSS as a critical part of ensuring our students’ readiness for college and careers.

I also addressed the Board on Monday night.   A complete copy of my remarks can be found here.


August 2013

Dear PUSD Parents and Students,

As I have done every year since joining the District Office staff in 1996, I spent the first day of the new school year visiting sites across the district. Watching buses roll up to school entrances, seeing middle and high school students reconnecting with friends and teachers after a long summer break, hearing the excited voices of our Kindergartners, I could not help but feel a special sense of pride for the effort and energy it takes from all of us to get the new school year successfully underway.

I believe this sense of pride is a well-earned PUSD tradition. We are a community who has, for decades, dedicated our time and talents to ensure a world-class educational experience for our children. This tradition of excellence continues as we begin the 2013-14 school year.

Everywhere I visited today, I saw caring administrators, teachers and staff working hard to make sure students felt welcomed and supported. I also saw scores of parent volunteers working equally hard to make sure that teachers and staff felt the same sense of welcome and support.

This is always an exciting day for me. One that fills me with pride, but also reminds me of the commitment we have made to provide every student with an educational experience that engages, excites and encourages them, and prepares them to be 21st century learners and leaders.

Yes, honoring this commitment takes energy and effort. But I can think of no community of educators and parents better equipped to fulfill the PUSD mission of College and Career Readiness for All.

The great thinker and philosopher, Aristotle, observed "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

I look forward to working with each of you to ensure another year of excellence for the students of the Poway Unified School District.


John Collins



May 2013

RE: PUSD and Common Core State Standards


According to many recent national studies on the future workforce needs in the United States, the literacy skills, critical thinking skills, and the attitudes and behaviors for success in college or postsecondary training look very similar to the skills needed for success in the workplace. ~ Poway Unified School District Strategic Vision: 2008-2014

“Common education standards are essential for producing the educated work force America needs to remain globally competitive. This voluntary state-led effort will help ensure that all students can receive the college- and career-ready, world-class education they deserve, no matter where they live. I applaud the states’ efforts that got us here today and the work of NGA, CCSSO and Achieve in supporting this important achievement.” ~ Craig Barrett, Former CEO and Chairman of the Board, Intel Corporation, 2010

There has been a lot of coverage recently in local and national news about the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Work on the CCSS began in 2009, at the request of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA). These two groups tasked education stakeholders to review the various standards already adopted in individual states, build on the best of these standards, and maintain a focus on the skills and knowledge students need to be career- and college-ready.

California “put its stamp” on the Common Core from the very beginning. California was among those states whose existing standards were used extensively in the writing of the Common Core, and California educators played a critical role in reviewing the drafted standards and finalizing them.

The Common Core standards have now been adopted by 45 states, four territories and the Department of Defense Schools. Each state or territory was allowed to add 15% of its existing standards to the Common Core. California added state-specific standards in both English Language Arts & Literacy and Mathematics. These revised standards – now known as California’s Common Core State Standards – were adopted by the California Legislature in August, 2010.
The new California State Standards identify the knowledge, concepts, and skills students should acquire by high school graduation. These standards are broken down by grade level, and subject area. The development of specific courses, curriculum, and instructional materials continues to be the responsibility of each local school district.

The career and college readiness skills that the California standards emphasize have been at the center of Poway Unified’s Mission and Vision for more than a decade. The state standards will continue to focus our work on critical thinking as our students read, write, and reason mathematically across all content areas. PUSD’s 2002-2008 Strategic Plan targeted College and Career Readiness for all students. Expanding on this work, PUSD’s 2008-2014 Strategic Vision includes Rigor (high expectations for all); Relevance (student engagement in learning) and Relationships (personalization of the learning experience for all) as hallmarks of our District’s mission.

In 2012-13, PUSD teachers and administrators once again expanded their focus on career and college readiness, using the new California Common Core standards as one element in lesson and assessment design. As part of this transition, administrators and teachers across the District are participating in a range of Professional Learning activities this year. Below are some highlights:

  • K-5 teachers have collaborated on the development of lessons, prompts and exemplars for trimester writing that reflect the Common Core’s emphasis on opinion, informative/explanatory and narrative writing.
  • 6-12 English Language Arts, Social Science, Science and Technical Subject teachers have received training on the instructional “shifts” in the Common Core that will require students to read and comprehend literary and informational texts while mastering subject specific academic language, and articulate arguments and claims through writing and speaking with evidence taken directly from reputable resources.
  • 6-12 Math teachers have reviewed information and research on the California CC Standards for Mathematical Practices that will require students to master mathematical processes, explain how they solved problems, and apply mathematics to solve problems arising in everyday life.

I believe it is the artistry and passion of the classroom teacher that determines the quality of a student’s educational experience. Please be assured that the transition of our state standards is consistent with the academic excellence we celebrate!

On Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the Poway Unified School District Board of Education will hold a special workshop on the new California Standards.  The workshop will be held at the Poway Unified School District Office, 15250 Avenue of Science, San Diego, CA  92128, in the Community Room.  The Public is welcome to attend.

John Collins, Superintendent




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