Union objects as Fresno Unified school board OKs new lesson plans

The Fresno BeeOctober 23, 2013 

Fresno Unified students will be taught new and more real-world lessons starting this year, but Fresno teachers union officials say they weren't consulted about the revamped classroom materials.

School board officials on Wednesday signed off on the new materials that are intended to give teachers a leg up as they implement new Common Core English and math standards. The plan does not include new textbooks.

Union leaders say the materials, which include sample lesson plans and timelines on when to teach certain topics, are too little, too late.

Eva Ruiz, Fresno Teachers Association president, said the union wasn't asked for input on the plan. More than 150 teachers helped plan the new lessons, but Ruiz said it's unclear who was on the planning committee, how they were vetted and what grade levels they represent.

She also said teachers have been expected to use the new and more rigorous benchmarks since the beginning of the school year, but are only now getting directions from the district.

"Teachers are coming to us with many stories about how much time it is taking them to develop the curriculum, lessons and assessments," she said. "I'm concerned this adoption is incomplete and has come at such a late time."

During the meeting, school board members including Christopher De La Cerda and Luis Chavez pressed district administrators about who created the lessons and why certain materials were picked.

Michael Neece, chief academic officer, said districts are essentially "building the airplane as we fly it" as they begin adopting an overhauled set of academic standards under Common Core.

At Fresno Unified, he said, more than 300 teachers and administrators developed new lessons over several months and found other materials already being used by schools across the country.

There's no cost attached to the proposal and many of the lessons are already posted to the district's website. David Christiansen, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said teachers have had online access to the plans since June.

Pushback against change is expected, said trustee Janet Ryan, but she said the lessons and new standards will ultimately help prepare students for 21st century jobs.

"I know there's always a lot of anxiety every 10 to 15 years when standards are changed," she said. "This time, I think standards are being changed much more for the better."

The board ultimately passed the measure on a unanimous vote, with trustee Michelle Asadoorian absent.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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