Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tension marks Missouri education goals rewrite

This from the SouthEast Missourian:
An effort to rewrite Missouri's educational standards got off to a tense and sometimes confrontational start Monday as parents and educators opposed to the Common Core guidelines clashed with those reluctant to ditch them. 

Under a new Missouri law, eight task forces each comprised of more than a dozen appointees are supposed to recommend new learning benchmarks for public school students to replace the national Common Core guidelines by the 2016-2017 school year.

But not all of the appointees had been named in time for Monday's initial meetings. Those who were present first argued about whether to actually meet, then about whether officials from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should be present, who should take notes and whether the public should be allowed to watch their work.

After they resolved those issues, task force members sparred over the merits of the Common Core standards, which were developed by a national organization of state school officers and the National Governors Association. They are used to gauge students' progress from grade-to-grade and create consistency among states. But opponents say they were adopted without enough local input.

Missouri is among 45 states to have adopted the Common Core standards but is one of several now backing away from them. Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina also have taken steps to rewrite their standards, North Carolina is reviewing its guidelines and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has suspended his state's testing contracts in an attempt to halt Common Core standards.

Missouri's attempt to forge new standards got off to such a shaky start Monday that some wondered whether it ultimately could succeed.

"If they can't come to a consensus, what do you do at that point?" said Sarah Potter, spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. "We're not really sure."

There was a clear divide among task force members between Common Core opponents appointed by Republican legislative leaders and supporters of the standards appointed by public education officials.
Before the official meetings began, about two dozen appointees of Republican legislative leaders met in the House chamber for a strategy session. Among those addressing the group was Mary Byrne, co-founder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, who asserted that the standards violate state law.

In some meetings, members at times spoke over each other. While some pushed to fully abandon Common Core, others sought more of a revision of the standards.

"I get told every day by parents, 'We're sitting at the table for hours with tears in our eyes,'" trying to do homework under the Common Core standards, said Brad Noel of Jackson, a parent representative appointed by House Speaker Tim Jones to the elementary math task force. "A lot of it is, in my opinion, not appropriate."

But "how do we know Common Core is not going to work? We're barely into it," said Ann McCoy, coordinator of the mathematics education program at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg appointed by the higher education commissioner. "It's frustrating to me as an educator to change and change and change."

James Shuls, a Jones appointee who is an associate professor in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, argued that the state doesn't need detailed standards and should instead adopt minimal requirements, leaving the rest to local districts.

The task forces are to make recommendations by October 2015 to the State Board of Education, which then must gather additional public comment.


R. Michael Sheetz, PhD said...

This is in response to Brad Noel's remark: "I get told every day by parents, 'We're sitting at the table for hours with tears in our eyes,'" trying to do homework under the Common Core standards . . . a parent representative . . . to the elementary math task force. "A lot of it is, in my opinion, not appropriate."

I am a very strong supporter of Common Core, but it is absolutely essential that its implementation be coincident with another change that is being completely ignored.

A significant part of the problems that are being revealed with attempts to implement Common Core is that we are teaching (especially math and science)in the same way that we have always taught (math and science), which is in no way consistent with student educational development required by Common Core. For example, the way in which mathematics is consistently being taught (and has always been taught)is in no way consistent with a requirement that students develop any applicable expertise in mathematics. Unfortunately, a recent new approach being taken to teach science in certain schools in Fayette County is almost guaranteed to provide students with little if any conceptual understanding of science.

As I stated in 2005 ago during the FCPS's 2020 Vision days: "If you build a house using inferior materials, adding additional inferior materials will not improve the quality of the construction."

More of the same inappropriate approach to teaching math will guarantee failure of Common Core. The same is true for science. If Common Core is to to succeed, schools must make significant changes in the way in which we teach - particularly in the areas of mathematics and science.

I am aware that there are several at FCPS CO that believe that we must continue to teach math the same way it has always been taught, and that no changes are needed at all. So explain then why so few students entering college have not even a remote applicable understanding of mathematics and why so many problems relating to math and science are mysteriously being revealed as we begin to implement Common Core. Continued insistence on remaining out of touch with educational reality in mathematics and science is a certain death knell for Common Core.

Anonymous said...

We have paid for multiple elementary teachers to attend co-op and other common core trainings over the last two years and our scores are actually dropping. At the same time, our middle school has a very traditional approach to teaching math and has not participated in much PD and their scores are great. So what's up with that?

What really bugs me the most is the use of this calculator program that basically does the work for the student. Received a student from another school that uses this "resource" (we don't) and when she got to math class couldn't do any of the problems because according to her the calculator was broken. Really?