New teaching method highlights new school year 

I love this time of year when school begins again for more than 55,000 San Francisco children and their families.

The floors are scrubbed, the teachers are putting up bulletin boards and everybody is rolling up their sleeves to get things ready when the doors officially open for students Monday.

We have some exciting changes this school year.

First, maybe you’ve heard of the California Common Core State Standards, but didn’t know exactly what this means for your children.

Simply put, Common Core means that our days of single-answer bubble tests, worksheets and lectures are gone. Instead, students are solving problems and showing their academic thinking in multiple ways. There will be a shared focus on dialogue and critical reasoning in all our classrooms, not just some.

We put a lot of thought into how we can build a curriculum that really prepares students for the 21st century. More than 600 teacher leaders were directly involved in shaping our new curriculum to align with Common Core.

But it gets better. Now, for the first time, our teachers will have access to real-time computer-based test results that will help them meet every student’s needs. Throughout the year and in the spring, the results will show what students have learned and be asked to synthesize multiple forms of information.

It’s not just more testing, it is improved and more meaningful testing for both teachers and students. We actually did a test drive of the big change to standardized testing (called Smarter Balanced Assessment) last spring, and this spring, our students will be taking the computerized tests for real.

Keep in mind that all of this means the curriculum will be even more challenging and we will likely see test scores take a dip in the next year — but this doesn’t mean students aren’t learning.

All the while, we’re keeping our eyes on the road ahead. San Francisco Unified School District teachers, administrators, parents and community members sat down together to ask two simple questions: What will our world be like when our youngest students graduate? How can we best prepare them for it? The result is called Vision 2025.

Take a moment to check it out at to see where we’re headed.

I am counting the minutes till our kids come back to our schools. We are ready to help our students, and your children, learn and grow.

It’s going to be a great year.

Richard Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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