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Concerns raised about Common Core Standards

Approximately 40 people attended the public forum where the newly-implemented requirements were discussed


by: BILL MINTIENS - A meeting was held on Sept. 23, to provide information regarding the Common Core standards that have been adopted statewide.

The Crook County School District hosted a “parents’ information meeting” on Monday, Sept. 23, in Crook County High School’s auditorium. Approximately 40 people attended the meeting intended to provide information about the Common Core Standards that have been adopted statewide.

“While there were only five to six parents in attendance, I’m not really worried about that. There will be more ongoing opportunities, including individual conferences where we sit with parents, to communicate the new state standards,” said CCSD Superintendent Duane Yecha.

Adopted in 2010 by the Oregon State Legislature, the Common Core State Standards are the academic content standards by which all Oregon students will be assessed using new tests. Known as the Smarter Balanced assessment, these tests will begin during the 2014-15 school year. The current OAKS (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) testing will gradually be phased out over the next four years, and replaced by the Smarter Balanced assessment tests.

The Common Core Standards are being adopted by a majority of states across the U.S. At last count, 44 states were in the process of gearing their school systems up for the change.

Developed by educators, parents, and educational experts from around the U.S., Oregon has been involved in every step of the Common Core State Standard’s development and adoption. These are not federal standards. They were developed by Oregon for Oregonians.

Paul Andrews, High Desert Educational Service District (HDESD) Assistant Superintendent, explained why the Common Core Standards are important to the entire country.

“The reason the discussion started about Common Core was because very early on, we were learning that you could do very well in one state, move to another state, and do (test) very poorly in the exact same grade because there was no alignment between the states.”

Jim Carlile, Assistant Superintendent with the Oregon Department of Education, began the evening with an overview of what the new Common Core Standards are — and what they are not.

“It’s important to understand that the new Common Core Standards is not curriculum. It is simply the ‘bar’ we want our students to attain, which is clearly more rigorous than previous standards. The individual schools decide on the textbooks and materials to use in teaching to the new standards.”

On a personal note, Carlile added, “I want my nine grandchildren to be well-educated enough so that they can meet the new standards because that’s something that’s going to bode well for them for the rest of their lives regardless of whatever occupation or career that they choose.”

Stacy Smith, CCSD’s new Curriculum Director, explained to attendees that the CCSD has been planning and working toward the standards change.

“About a year ago our administration team and some of our building leaders went to watch some Oregon Department of Education (ODE) workshops (on the standards). This was the first time we saw the math and language arts standards. We began then to grasp the shift, that there is more rigor in the complexity and difficulty in the language arts and math standards. Our teacher leaders started to look at that and compare them to our existing Oregon standards.”

Wanting to get a jump on the changeover, Smith explained what the team decided to implement this school year in preparation for the Smarter Balanced assessment tests, which will begin during the 2014-15 school year.

“So this school year (2013-2014), we’re adopting the language arts standards and teaching to those. Next year, we’ll adopt the math standards and develop curriculum that complements those standards.”

Smith believes it’s in the best interest of the students currently in high school.

“We decided that sooner is better. We didn’t have to start teaching to the Common Core standards until next year, but particularly for those families with children in high school, we wanted our children to be as ready as possible for the new standards.”

Following the short presentations, several people asked questions and voiced concerns about the Common Core Standards.

Darcy Bedortha was concerned that the standards don’t get to the real issue — poverty.

Addressing Paul Andrews, she asked, “How are you going to address issues of poverty, the root cause of our kids having a hard time meeting all this? If you don’t know where your dinner is coming from, and you don’t know where you’re sleeping at night, how are you going to do homework to prepare for an even more rigorous standard?”

“Prior to the Common Core standards we didn’t have a way to judge how children in poverty were doing versus other students. These standards will allow us to do that,” said Andrews.

Bedortha was also concerned with the pace of implementation and the money made by corporations during the transition.

“I have no problem with the standards. I understand that every parent and every community member would want their kids to meet these standards. My problem is with the implementation of it, as fast and as hard as its coming when our kids and our schools and teachers are suffering already. There’s been no attempt to pilot this. My second huge concern is the “privatizing” of education that’s happening in this country. This is part of that. There are a lot of corporations making a lot of money on the tests and the preparation and professional development that goes along with it.”

Lorrie Peterson wanted to know if the state was taking into consideration the opposition to the new standards.

“My biggest question is that there is lots of opposition and strong concern about Common Core and the state adopting it. Have you looked into those concerns and arguments against them?

Paul Andrews explained that he recently met with the Central Oregon Patriots in Prineville to address concerns over the Common Core Standards.

“One of the common questions I’ve heard is, ‘Will there be a loss of local control (over the district)?’ and my answer is, ‘Not really, because you lost control 20 years ago when the Oregon state standards were adopted.’ At that point, districts had to adopt them or be out of compliance and lose funding. Local control at the district level comes in the area of curriculum and instruction.”

Peterson countered with, “My biggest concern is that this (Common Core Standards) hasn’t been thought through as well as it could be. I don’t think there was open opportunity on the federal level for experts to be involved. Not enough research was done. I think we lost control of our schools, not 20 years ago — we lost control in 1980 with the Department of Education.”

Ashley Martin wanted to know what the fall-back strategy would be if the new Common Core Standards didn’t work out.

“What happens if, in five years, we realize this isn’t the best thing for our school district? That what we were doing before is better? What if we can’t pass the Common Core Standards, not that the kids just can’t do it, just that the standards are wrong?”

Andrews reminded the audience that each state has the right to adopt or reject the new standards.

“Each state can decide to be in or out. But individual districts can’t go against what the state school board decides, otherwise they lose their funding. If Oregon decided not to adopt the Common Core Standards in the future, we’re still under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver. I’m assuming Oregon would make the argument that, in order to stay under the waiver, our Oregon state standards do meet the “college and career readiness standards” or we’d rescind the waiver and live under NCLB as we did for 10 years.”

Jim Carlile added, “Obviously we’re going to be following the progress of kids over the next few years. We’re hopeful that, because everyone is working hard on it (the Common Core Standards), that we’ll see greater performance and more success for our graduates going on to college. But that’s yet to be seen of course.”

Andrews also discussed his own concerns about pushing the new state standards down to lower grade levels.

“One of my biggest concerns is are we pushing it down so much that it’s not developmentally appropriate? In response to my concern, however, Virginia has decided not to adopt the Common Core Standards because they view them as a ‘dumbing-down’ of their own standards. They felt the Common Core Standards were not rigorous enough. Massachusetts felt this way too.”

A question was also raised about penalties if the students and schools don’t attain the new state standards. Will the schools and students be penalized?

“We don’t know. NCLB had those types of punitive pieces tied to it. But we have a waiver from NCLB and the Common Core Standards don’t have a stick and carrot tied to it. The state, if it chooses, can do it. But Common Core is simply a tool for standards. It doesn’t say that if we don’t meet them, such and such will happen.”

Carlile also addressed concerns about funding of the new standards. Several attendees wanted to know who was paying for this change.

“There are regional opportunities for workshops this year for teachers and administrators to learn about teaching to the new standards, and money is coming to each district from the state to support the training and implementation for the new standards.”

The first Crook County High School class to have completely adopted the Common Core Standards will be the graduating class of 2019.




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