Foes of standards creating acrimony
The emerging argument about the adoption of the Common Core Standards is making headlines and creating unnecessary acrimony. Three full years after its unanimous adoption, several opposition groups are now attempting to derail one of the most promising reforms in public education in several decades. It is our hope that we can state clearly what we know to be true, and express unqualified support for our state’s educators as they implement these new, important standards.
First, it is important to understand what we mean by “standards.” In simplest terms, they are the words we use to describe what children need to know and be able to do at each stage of their education.
Kentucky’s General Assembly adopted Senate Bill 1 (2009) by a unanimous vote in both houses of the legislature, directing the Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education to work together to implement new K-12 standards that: a) are aligned with what our colleges and universities expect students to know in order to take credit-bearing courses upon admission; and b) are benchmarked internationally so Kentucky students can compete against the best-educated students in the world.
The standards clearly describe to teachers what students need to know and be able to do at the end of kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and all the way up to high school graduation. However, the decisions on how to teach a particular subject, what textbooks to use, what homework to assign, etc. (what we generally refer to as the curriculum) remains a local decision made by local teachers, school boards and site-based councils. For example, if the standards call for students to be able to multiply fractions by a certain grade level, it is up to our classroom teachers to decide how best to teach students to perform that skill.
As we began in 2009 to implement the directives in Senate Bill 1, the National Governors Association in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (then led by Kentucky’s former Education Commissioner Gene Wilhoit) announced their intention to develop a set of standards that could voluntarily be adopted by states that met the same criteria the Kentucky General Assembly had established six months earlier.
That effort, originally inspired by mostly Republican governors, assembled the finest minds and most experienced educators in the nation to draft the new standards. We decided to participate in this effort rather than expend several millions of tax dollars to develop our own separate standards.
Kentucky’s participation involved more than 100 collegiate faculty from many of our state universities and a like number of K-12 teachers from across the Commonwealth. They reviewed drafts coming from the chief state school officers and offered numerous comments and suggestions to improve the drafts, many of which were incorporated into the final version. Once the standards were finalized, Kentucky was the first state in the nation to adopt and implement them throughout our public education system.
Just three years into this effort, the results are promising.
Thousands more students are meeting college readiness standards on the ACT exam, and the performance of students in the lower grades is beginning to reflect better learning outcomes than we have seen in the last few decades. In addition, Kentucky’s teachers are widely supportive of the new standards and the guidance they are providing to help teachers know and understand what is expected of them and their students.
So what is the argument really about?
There is a claim that the standards are the work of the federal government, forcing its education agenda on the states in a top-down manner.
That is unequivocally false.
The standards are the brainchild of the states, through the governors and chief state school officers, and the product of educators across Kentucky and elsewhere across the nation. It is true that the U.S. Department of Education supports implementation of the standards and has encouraged their adoption. But it is the federal government supporting a good idea that began in a few select states and quickly spread outward. In fact, Kentucky, as an early adopter and influencer, has become a leader in this national movement, which should be a source of pride to all Kentuckians.
So don’t get cold feet, Kentucky.
The Common Core Standards are what our state and our students need. They will not solve every problem, but they will help.
As for the detractors, while honest debate is always welcome, creating arguments based on falsehoods diminishes the remarkable improvements your local teachers are creating for your kids.
Education Chairman Doesn't Expect
Major Changes To Kentucky Science Standards
This from WFPL:
The chair of the Kentucky Board of Education doesn’t expect the controversy over newly-adopted science standards to lead to a change in those standards before they're implemented.
The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by an independent consortium of 26 states, including Kentucky, and are part of Kentucky’s 2009 education reforms. They will update what students will be expected to learn in science.
The standards are based around updated scientific research and include more lessons around climate change and evolution--among many other topics--and that has drawn criticism from some.
The state education board will get recommendations this week--formally called the Statement of Consideration--from education department officials, who have considered public comments for their report.
A spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education says they received thousands of comments--mostly written--last month from residents, many who were upset about the teaching of evolution and climate change.
KDE also heard public testimony, which can be viewed here.
The comments drew national headlines, but KBE chairman David Karem says it would be unusual for the state board to make large changes to the standards at this point.
“I would not expect there to be changes to the major fundamental portions of the regs because the standards were developed by 26 states,” he tells WFPL.
Karem says it’s not unusual to make changes technical changes to something that “needs attention,” but he often says those are technical and procedural issues.
If the board approves the report it goes to the legislature for final approval. The appropriate committees can approve the standards or they can find them deficient, according to KDE officials.
At any time during the process, KBE can defer, withdraw or reconsider the standards.
The governor can also decide to move forward with implementation.