Common Core

Transition to Common Core Standards for 2013-14 School Year

Phoebe Hearst, along with the rest of the state, will be transitioning to the new Common Core Standards over the 2013-14 school year.

Language Arts Common Core Standards:

Math Common Core Standards:

Next year will be the last year of STAR testing. Beginning in the spring of 2014-15, students will take the Smarter Balance Assessment.

Teachers, grades 3-6, at Phoebe Hearst have participated in intensive training in Math this year as part of a district grant, and two lead teachers, Ms. Kitowski and Mrs. Schnack, have participated in Language Arts training to then provide information to the rest of the staff. All teachers will receive additional training late this summer and next year to be fully prepared for the transition to Common Core.

In preparation for the transition, it is important that both students and teachers experience learning and teaching with the instructional shifts and a more thematic approach to curriculum implementation. This year teachers at Phoebe have developed “Units of Study” tying together Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies standards at each grade level under a particular theme. During the window of May 3rd through May 29th, each class will experience some form of instruction and learning around a theme tied to the school garden. Each grade level has a unique spin on this overarching theme that correlates to grade level standards. I’ve attached a sample Unit of Study to help parents see the big picture. Please know that this is just a template, and the daily lessons and activities are not outlined. We look forward to this Unit of Study!

See a sample from Common Core Standards: 4th Grade Unit

CLICK HERE to see a Common Core aligned 5th grade math test. It is a shift away from simply producing a correct answer, and toward explaining the process of problem solving and mathematical reasoning. Students are asked to not just generate a final product, but to show and explain in writing their depth of knowledge.

Changes to State Testing Process

A new law – AB 484 – signed by Governor Brown this month suspends administration of most California Standards Tests (CSTs) this spring to allow schools to participate in a field test of new student academic performance assessments. Called Smarter Balanced Assessments, the new online exams are more closely tied to student learning in our classrooms.

This field testing is critically important for our district, as it gives the central office, teachers, students and families the opportunity to experience these new tests and provide the state with feedback in a “hold harmless” year. In other words, results from this year’s field testing will only be used to “test the test” and make adjustments to questions, timing, logistics, etc.

The Smarter Balanced Assessments are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which define what students should know and be able to do at every grade level. The standards are aimed at preparing students for college and the workplace. As such, we are accelerating our work to ensure that every student is solving problems, analyzing text, working in groups and developing communication skills in every classroom. We are working with the district as well to update our technological infrastructure in anticipation of the new online tests.

Please note that the science CSTs will still be administered to students in grades 5.

For more information about AB 484 or to take a Smarter Balanced practice test, visit

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE)

About GATE (Gifted and Talented Education)

“The Sacramento City Unified School District is committed to supporting gifted and high ability students who represent diverse socio-economic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The District’s instructional programs for Gifted and Talented students are based on the principles that all students have potential and should have equal opportunities to develop their individual capabilities, interests, and needs. We believe that students should receive specialized learning opportunities which are relevant, rigorous and well-rounded.” 

Phoebe Hearst is one of five GATE Centers in Sacramento City Unified School District. The GATE program begins in 2nd Grade. Students across the district are tested in the first grade for eligibility through multiple measures including the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), District Benchmark score data, and teacher and parent survey information. Once students are identified, their families may choose to enter the lottery for a seat in our 2nd grade cohort. This cohort of children will travel together through 6th grade. Students in our GATE classes can expect to be challenged by very rigorous curriculum, speaking and creative opportunities, many fieldtrips, and particular focus on shifting to the newly adopted Common Core State Standards.

All Phoebe Hearst GATE Teachers have special certification in GATE instruction. Their certification emphasizes expertise in differentiated instruction and implementation of Language Arts Curriculum from the College of William and Mary.

First Grade GATE Testing Timeline (2013-14)

December: Benchmark #1 testing window

January: GATE testing of all first grade students (Naglieri)

February: Benchmark #2 testing window

1. Schools and families are notified of GATE Identification
2. GATE Orientation

1. GATE Center Site Visits
2. Families are notified of GATE Center placements



Technology at Phoebe Hearst

Phoebe families and staff have committed to implementing a full scale technology program. Through ongoing parent support (PTO), three iPads carts were leased during the Spring of 2013. The roll out this Fall has produced excitement among students and teachers. The technology roll-out has two faces:

Technology Lab

Phoebe Hearst has a fully functioning technology lab. The Common Core State Standards call for students to have proficiency in technology, and as a school we are committed to providing this instruction. The Smarter Balanced Assessment, which will replace the STAR exam, is an all online test. Helping our students prepare to navigate this exam with proficiency is an additional goal of our technology program.

The lab is equipped with a computer cart of 33 MacBooks, LCD projector, wireless booster, and Apple TV.  Through a grant funded by SECC (Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium) and with the help of the Phoebe PTO the Technology Lab now includes a SEVA studio. The SEVA studio equipment includes a green screen, studio lights, 5 Canon camcorders, Sony wireless microphone system, Prompter, 4 tripods and a tripod with dolly.

Students in grades first through fourth have scheduled Technology Lab time with the our Tech teacher, Mrs. Planchon. All other grades can schedule time to use the lab with their classroom teacher. Various websites and software programs have been chosen to support teaching and learning of the CCSS, and to promote content creation in alignment with grade level goals.

Technology in Classrooms

All classroom teachers can check-out iPad carts for use in their classrooms with students. This option allows students to use the iPads right in their own rooms for research and project creation. Teachers are receiving training in how to use the iPads to support learning, and how to trouble shoot any tech problems that might arise. Additionally, many teachers have solicited help in the tech roll-out from particularly tech savvy parent volunteers.

Phoebe’s Garden

CLICK HERE to learn all about our Garden Program!


CLICK HERE to learn more about our art program and see some of our art projects!