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21st Century Schools Common Core It’s not professional jargon. The reality is that 21st century schools have departed from the traditional notion of education, with new teaching methods and new tools. Even beyond that, they are encouraging students and their families to have a new mindset when it comes to learning. Morgan Hill Unified School District (MHUSD) Superintendent Steve Betando said today’s schools have “let go of traditional lecture and test teaching methods and print-based instructional materials to prepare students for a future of challenges and opportunities, very different than anything we’ve known.” Betando described how South County educators are embracing new teaching methods that help students work collaboratively, engage with project-based learning, and become researchers, critical thinkers and creative problem-solvers who can present and defend their knowledge effectively in the modern world. Gilroy Unified School District (GUSD) Superintendent Debbie Flores talked about the transformation of our local campuses into modern schools that are wirelessly connected to the Internet, and classrooms that are equipped with iPads, Chromebooks, interactive whiteboards and a bevy of software apps like Tynker, Skype and Gaggle (a safe learning system). Both Betando and Flores point out that thanks to community support for Measure G and Measure P, South County students are benefitting from new or improved classrooms, libraries, gymnasiums, science labs and more. The majority of schools in the Morgan Hill and Gilroy Unified School Districts have been touched and capacity is being added in anticipation of population growth in the region. Youth spend their school days in well-lit, energy-efficient classrooms. They perform theater arts in comfortable auditoriums with good acoustics. And they compete in safe, well-equipped sports fields and facilities. Common Core State Standards have kicked educational requirements up a few notches in preparing students for college and careers in the years ahead. California is among 43 states, the District of Columbia and 4 U.S. territories that have elected to adopt these standards. South County schools are among California’s early and proactive implementers. According to Flores, “Common Core is the biggest transformation I’ve seen in public education. To implement these standards, our schools are embracing new learning, testing and assessment methods and models. We have implemented the English Language, Arts and Math standards and we are on track with the Next Generation Science Standards.” In the so-called Internet Age, even the way students explore and consume information is changing. Nordstrom Elementary School Principal Barbara Neal said her teachers have introduced “close reading,” a new way to teach reading of informational texts. In essence, students learn to break apart the text and synthesize infor- mation as they read so they can focus more energy on critical analysis. But if our kids are learning to think and work differently in the classroom, how will we gauge their progress? “Looking ahead, my concern is about student assessment,” Betando said, referring to the challenge of measuring results in a changing education system. “We need new methods to assess academic performance in a meaningful way and to give students immediate feedback.” GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN Project Cornerstone Our schools are “walking the talk” when it comes to implementing the 41 developmental assets put forth by Project Cornerstone. It was originally developed through a collaborative of community- based organizations known as the Youth Alliance and is now an initiative of the YMCA of Silicon Valley. JULY/ AUGUST 2015 gmhtoday.com 13