In a few years, multimedia text messages and online product reviews could be among the accepted curriculum for Lodi Unified School District students, following a state decision.
At a special meeting last week, the state board of education unanimously adopted common national academic standards which will provide the basis for future instruction in the state.
The common-standards initiative has been pushed by the Obama administration, but executed through a voluntary national effort in which nearly all states are participating.
To be more competitive for federal Race to the Top funds, California had to adopt common standards in English, math and other subjects to be in sync with most other states.
The standards will also help level the playing field for what is becoming a more mobile society, said Judy Bullard, curriculum director for the Galt Joint Elementary School District.
"Students moving to California from another state can essentially pick up where they left off since textbooks should also be more standardized," she said.
The adoption of the standards means immediate and long-range changes for students, starting first with once again requesting Race to the Top money. It's too soon to know what changes are in store, according to Lisa Kotowski, who oversees Lodi Unified's curriculum department.
But Bear Creek High Schoolwoodshop teacher Roger Crane is not so sure the new standard is a move in the right direction, especially since not all high school students go on to college, he said.
"It's a travesty what has happened in education. Everything revolves around the core curriculum," he said.
Instead, Crane wishes more attention was given to courses like woodshop and drafting. "These courses give meaning to algebra, to geometry," he told the Lodi Unified school board last week.
It's not clear exactly what curriculum changes will be made at the state level. Staff at the California Department of Education have just started work to develop a plan for implementing the standards.
"The goal of the Common Core Standards is to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the work force," Bullard said in an e-mail.
Still, some feel new rigorous content will allow students to better compete internationally.
"I know from my personal experience, having lived in different states while working for State Farm, the level of rigor and expectations vary widely," Greg Jones, chairman of the California Business for Education Excellence, said in a press release. "(The) vote by the State Board of Education will significantly help with closing that gap and ensure that more students are given the opportunity to achieve and succeed in the workplace and in college."
CBEE is a nonprofit organization with the mission to raise student academic achievement and close the achievement gap in California's public schools.
The standards are to ultimately supplant California's current academic framework, which is widely viewed as among the best in the nation, although the same cannot be said of the results in the classroom.
A state commission supplemented the national standards with elements of the existing state plan as well as with updated approaches.
In Massachusetts, another state with high standards, the national plan became controversial, although it was finally approved. In California, there's been vigorous debate, but most opposition had faded by Monday's vote.
Two commissioners on the state's standards review committee said they opposed the national framework out of concern that the approach to math, and especially algebra, instruction could water down California's efforts.
Other speakers at the meeting supported the national standards, but said more work is needed to make the plan effective for students learning English.
Critics are concerned the national standards could "dumb down" California classrooms, discarding the state's superior academic framework adopted 13 years ago for students from kindergarten through high school.
The governor and state education officials have pushed the national standards for California, saying they offer a 21st century education leading to college and career readiness while allowing for the cost savings that would come with economies of scale in teacher training, textbooks and testing. It's not just about winning Race to the Top funds, worth up to $700 million, they say.
"It would be a mistake to support these standards just so we can win a one-time Race to the Top grant," state Board of Education member Ben Austin said last month. "If we support these standards, it will be because it's best for the children of California."
So far, the 25 states have adopted the standards, a decision arguably easier for many of them.
The discussion on Common Core State Standards began last fall when governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states (including California), two territories and the District of Columbia committed to developing a set of standards that would help prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in education and training after high school.
The final version of the core standards in English-language arts and mathematics were released on June 2 after the California Academic Content Standards Commission met to develop academic content standards in language arts and mathematics, with at least 85 percent of these standards consisting of the Common Core State Standards for each subject.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.