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VSPUSD Board approves Common Core funding


November 21, 2013
The Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District Board (VSPUSD) approved the spending plan to implement the Common Core State Standards by unanimous vote at their regular meeting on Nov. 14.

Common Core has been a source of controversy in recent weeks as parents and teachers have debated the merits of the new system. However, facing pressure to perform well on the new Smarter Balanced assessments, the board agreed the best option was to go forward with Common Core.

"I think we're kind of almost forced down the path of Common Core based on the funding, based on the testing of the states, based on the enthusiasm of our teachers from what they've seen already," said Karen Burstein, board clerk. "I trust our teachers that they're going to use their techniques and their best ideas and material to do it."

The new standards were designed with an emphasis on 21st century skills, a purportedly more well-rounded approach to mathematics, and a turn toward more non-fiction texts. The board could have rejected the Common Core funding and standards, but VCPUSD schools would still have to take the new Smarter Balanced assessments each spring. The assessments are designed with Common Core in mind, so if Valley Center-Pauma were to reject the standards they would likely see their test scores take a hit.

"I thought as a board we had no say, as a public we had no say on Common Core, and in my research, that's just what it is. It's true, we have no say," said Board Member Michael Robledo at the meeting. Robledo said he had a "heavy heart" on voting for the spending plan, but he conceded that it was necessary to stay competitive with other districts when the assessments come around. "If any of us were to abstain or reject this at this particular point, it would be highly symbolic at best."

2013-14 is the transition year for Common Core, with the standards taking full effect next year.

In other news, parent Carey Soghomonian addressed the board with serious concerns about a lack of content filtering on iPads issued by the school district. She recently discovered that her 6th grade son was able to access pornographic images simply by searching on Google for "funny faces."

"I spend so much time and I work so hard at home making sure that they're protected from things that might do them harm, for example the Internet, the adult material. I trusted in the school to do the same," said Soghomonian. "I was shocked to find what I found."

The school district uses a program called iBoss that is supposed to filter out inappropriate search results. However, Soghomonian claimed her son had searched for "funny faces" more than 150 times and easily found pictures of naked women who had funny faces. iBoss prevented him from actually going to the website, but he was still able to see the previews in Google Images. She shocked the audience at the meeting with enlarged photos of the images she found on her son's iPad.

"I have hundreds of these, and it was so easy," she said. "I couldn't believe what I saw, so I went to the school and I was able to view the same thing."

Superintendent Lou Obermeyer said this was the first report she has had of the iBoss failing to catch racy images. "I appreciate having this information brought to my attention and I am very sorry students were able to access inappropriate material via our school Internet," said Obermeyer in an email statement. "We immediately began working on a fix to the problem and believe we now have added security filters so students will not be able to access inappropriate information. We will ask teachers and principals

to continue to be diligent with their oversight and ask all teachers and parents to report any problems to us."

According to Obermeyer, the iBoss filter will now block students from accessing Google Images, but she still encourages parents to check their student's iPad and make sure the browsing is appropriate.

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