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New LA Unified school year starts with important classroom changes

LAUSD buses will be running again Tuesday when the school year begins.
LAUSD buses will be running again Tuesday when the school year begins.
Photo by superterrific/dana byerly via Flickr Creative Commons

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As more than  600,000 L.A. Unified students begin their first day of class on Tuesday, they'll see what district officials say are positive changes in teaching style and staffing.

A state tax increase approved by California voters last year is responsible for the first change. The funds from the tax are helping all school districts. L.A. Unified school board member Steve Zimmer said the measure has stopped hundreds of layoffs at the district.

"Children will be walking into schools on Tuesday morning that have largely the same faculty and largely the same support staff for the first time in five years," Zimmer said.

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And that should help cohesion at each campus. Students will also notice a different teaching style, Zimmer said. This is the year California public schools are phasing in the Common Core, a new set of rules for skills that teachers are expected to teach students.

"You're going to see a very, very strong and appropriate turn towards critical thinking skills being taught, towards analytical skills," Zimmer said.

Along with that change, L.A. Unified and all other school districts will not be using the multiple-choice STAR tests for 2nd to 11th graders. Many teachers complained of having to focus nearly all their teaching during the year on the narrow questions presented on the test.

For its part, the school district is urging students to know the school's rules and codes of conduct, and parents are being asked to read each school's handbook to know what's expected of them.

Now that school is back in session, we’re asking folks to tweet us photos of the things in their backpacks (or work bags). Whether it be Hello Kitty folders or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, we want to see what students are packing on their first day of school. But this call-out is for the adults, too. Let us know using the hashtag #mybackpack on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.