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Districts receiving last portion of grant money for Common Core prep



California school districts are receiving the last of the $1.25 billion block grant for implementing Common Core State Standards this week.

The State Department of Education is releasing about $622 million. The first round of funds, which were included in this year’s state budget, went out in August. The total funds amount to about $200 per student.

Districts and charter schools get to decide for themselves how to spend the money, within limits. It must be used for teacher professional development, buying curriculum materials or technology needed for implementing the new standards or some combination of these. Before spending a penny of it, however, each district or charter school board has to develop a formal budget plan for the money, hold a public meeting to discuss the plan, and then formally adopt it.

California adopted the voluntary Common Core standards in math and English language arts in 2010. Another 44 states and the District of Columbia have also signed onto the new kindergarten through 12th grade standards.

Unlike the state standards California adopted in the 1990s, the Common Core standards focus less on memorization and more on teaching skills. Implementing the standards requires more collaborative, hands-on and interdisciplinary teaching methods.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised the governor and Legislature for including the Common Core implementation funds in this year’s budget, but, in a statement released Tuesday, indicated that it’s not enough.

“The state made a significant down payment on that commitment with this first block grant – but we must do more,” said Torlakson, pledging to seek more support from lawmakers.

It will be a few years before state officials and the public knows how districts decide to spend the implementation funds. Districts have until the end of 2014-15 fiscal year to use the money and must file reports expense reports by July 2015, with the California Department of Education. By law, the education department must then present a summary of those reports to the state legislature and finance department by Jan. 1, 2016.

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