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      Common Core raises the bar for ISAT

      First graders at Berrian have begun to learn the Common Core standards to help them in the ISAT come 2015.

      Filling in the bubble on standardized tests will be a thing of the past in the next two years.

      The Common Core standard taking over the country will not only change the way students learn but it will also determine if they're college or career bound.

      "Our teachers are excited about raising the bar for our students. They're ready," Lisa Otten, a literacy coach at Berrian Elementary said.

      First graders at Berrian Elementary will be the first class to take the new ISAT. By the time they're in third grade, the test will be harder. Students will begin to see some changes to this year's test as well.

      "It's a plus. It's more higher level thinking skills, more higher level thinking. It's more process oriented. That's what's happening in other countries. Their curriculum is expanding, where ours in narrowing. But this is now more in that direction," Cal Lee, QPS interim superintendent said.

      Lee says the higher standards set for the ISAT is due to the Common Core Standards taking over 45 states across the country. It's becoming a national standard.

      "The implementation is always the issue. That's one of my concerns here, is that, it's an underfunded district," Lee said.

      Right now, students at the high school level take tests at a level comparable to the Common Core, but students in grades, kindergarten through eighth, do not. It's causing a big gap in standardized tests scores across the district.

      "We're doing backwards planning. So, before we just plan a unit, we look at the standards, what the expectations are for those students need to learn and then focus our lessons around that," Heather Humphrey, a literacy coach at Berrian Elementary said.

      Testing will also take place online with the Common Core.

      "We keep relying on our local folks and our local funding is about 56 percent of what we draw in. That state gives us about 30 and that federal gives us 14 percent. It's interesting. They give us about 44 percent of the money but want to tell us 100 percent what to do. And they won't help us to pay for it. That's our dilemma. That's my frustration. I love the concept. I love the idea. Just give me the resources to pay for it," Lee said.

      It's a collaborative effort among teachers to get the job done without outside help.

      "Our teachers are doing such a great job problem solving and coming together on their own," Otten said.

      "We've spent a lot of our team meeting times, delving into the common core, getting to understand what they mean for our students, what our expectations are, and what that means for our teaching and how we need to be raising the bar," Humphrey said.

      Lee says the Quincy School District spends less on its students that other districts in the state, but test score continue to compete with the rest. He says that's a sign of good teachers and administration.