A debate on the Common Core education standards on Thursday in the Kentucky Senate drew a large crowd and showed the emotion the debate has stirred.
"Thousands of people of Kentucky have waited a long, long time for this day," said Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, referring to the chance to speak out against Common Core.
Rep. Tom Kerr, R-Taylor Mill, left, and Sen. John Schickel, R-Union
The committee meeting room filled to capacity with dozens of people. Three experts from around the country, including a professor from Stanford and one from Arkansas, teleconferenced in to the hearing to give testimony against Common Core.
Common Core is a set of academic standards for schools across the country that rely heavily on critical thinking, problem solving and the use of technology.
Most in the crowd on Thursday seemed to be against Common Core, wearing "Stop Common Core" buttons. More than 10 people from Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati made the trip to oppose Common Core.
At the center of the debate was a bill filed by Schickel to repeal Common Core in Kentucky. It is the second bill filed by a Northern Kentucky lawmaker to repeal Common Core. A bill filed by Rep. Tom Kerr, R-Taylor Mill, appears stalled in the Democratic-controlled House.
Many don't expect Schickel's bill to go anywhere, but Common Core protesters hope to send a message, said Terry Donoghue, a tea party activist from Boone County.
"The point is so the people can find out the truth about Common Core," Donoghue said.
Fears that Common Core will promote teaching of evolution
Those against Common Core believe it's a federal takeover of local education. Kentucky was the first state to adopt Common Core in 2010. Since then, more than 40 states have adopted the standards.
While the standards came out of the National Governors Association in 2009, the U.S. Department of Education ties some grant money to the adoption of Common Core standards by states.
The federal government bribed states for their support, said Heidi Huber, an Anderson Township resident who heads Ohioans Against Common Core.
"This is not representative government," Huber said. "When the federal government comes in, does an end run around the state Legislature and offers cash to governors, good things don't happen, and it silences the voice of the people. That's all we're asking for, is to be heard."
Common Core detractors on Thursday expressed fear of the government using the schools to promote evolution and climate change.
Schickel on Thursday enlisted the help of two of the people on Common Core's Validation Committee that reviewed the standards in 2009.
Sandra Stotsky, a professor at the University of Arkansas, and James Milgram, a professor at Stanford University, both served on the validation committee and both were one of four on the committee who refused to approve the standards. They spoke at the hearing via a live video feed.
They both spoke to Common Core lowering the standards for schools. Milgram said the standards only require Algebra II for high school students and not calculus. Stotsky said it puts the wrong emphasis on language arts.
"They stress writing more than reading, which is the opposite of what we know," Stotsky said. "Reading is the basis for good writing. All good writers have been good readers, and unless our schools everywhere do that at all levels of proficiency, we will not have high-leveled graduates coming out of our high schools."
Teachers say Common Core has boosted proficiency
Kentucky education leaders, however, gave an impassioned defense of Common Core. They believe Common Core has raised proficiency among students and asserted that local teachers have flexibility on what to teach.
The standards provide guidelines for teachers but teachers have freedom to structure the course work and curriculum as best they see fit, said Madison County fourth grade teacher Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association.
It allows for more creativity than before when teachers "taught to the test."
"These standards are just that, standards, and not a prescribed curriculum," Winkler said. "They may tell educators what students should be able to do by the end of a grade or course, but now we have the flexibility to create a curriculum that caters to the individual needs of students."
In the last four years in Kentucky, the number of high school graduates who have met enough standards to be deemed college-ready has gone from 34 percent to 54 percent, said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday.
He said more than 70 percent of teachers in Kentucky polled by the Department of Education support Common Core.
"When parents understand what they are, they are overwhelmingly supportive of these standards, so I ask you please don't discard the hard work of our educators," Holliday said.
Holliday estimated developing new standards would cost at least $35 million if the Legislature threw out Common Core.
Holliday and Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, had a heated exchange over several points including what were on some of the reading lists.
Stine said parents emailed her some of the passages on high school reading lists from the standards for books, such as Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye." She said couldn't repeat the language in the meeting because the language was obscene.
Holliday said those books are simply recommended literature, just as Advanced Placement standards include recommendations.
"These are the decision of the teachers, not the Department of Education," Holliday said. "They choose the resources. They choose the curriculum. They choose the instructional material in the schools, so they should be very sensitive to their community and what their community expects."
The bill to repeal Common Core isn't likely to go further this session, said Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.
"We have a lot of people who don't feel like they had an opportunity to talk about this, and talk about it in front of the Legislature, and so that was providing them an opportunity here today," Wilson said.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Common Core debate stirs emotions in Ky. Senate
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