Common Core to help better prepare students

Opinion, Sedalia (MO) Democrat, February 7, 2014 -

Honest and open dialogue about what public schools are teaching our children should be more than an expectation — it should be a necessity. In Sedalia School District 200, we embrace the opportunity to discuss with parents and community members the curriculum and methods we employ to prepare Sedalia students for their best chance at success. The advent of Common Core State Standards has elicited interest from public education critics and advocates nationwide, and Doug Kneibert’s commentary in the Feb. 5 edition of the Sedalia Democrat hit on some of the areas where critics have raised the most concerns. We would like to address them to provide some clarity about what Common Core is and is not, and what it will and won’t mean for our students. Common Core was created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to provide a clear set of standards to ensure that students across the country will graduate from high school with the proper skills and knowledge to perform academically at the college level or to successfully enter the workforce. The standards will ensure that a high school diploma awarded in Montana will indicate the same levels of proficiency as a diploma awarded in Missouri. Each state and school district will be able to draw their own road map to those goals, and indeed Missouri has created its own path with the Missouri Learning Standards. Foremost is Kneibert’s contention that Common Core will strip away local control. That simply is not the case. According to “The standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.” No district wants to be micromanaged from Washington, D.C., but truthfully, this is no different than it has been for decades. State and federal education officials have long determined the academic destination for students, and local school districts have been free to draw their own road map to get there. Common Core continues that methodology. And while the Common Core State Standards Initiative offers textbook recommendations and curriculum aids such as worksheets, Sedalia 200 has not invested in any of those offerings. Kneibert also contends that, “Subject standards will now be set by people in distant places who consider themselves to be the sole repository of wisdom as to what our children should be learning.” The standards have been built on required skills for students entering college or workforce training programs, as well as academic expectations from the higher-performing states and nations. Teachers have been involved in the process throughout. A good way to measure the standards’ value is to see how they are viewed by those who will be affected by their outcome. Cheryl Oldham, vice president of Education Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and vice president of Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, wrote on “To the employer community that is looking for the best, brightest, and most prepared to be a part of its workforce, Common Core is really just common sense — rigorous standards, comparable across states, that are internationally benchmarked and designed to ensure we’re all on track for success.” Critics may not like much about the adaptation mechanisms and implementation of Common Core State Standards, but 70 percent of districts in Missouri have made substantial investments in the move to Common Core over the past three years. To go back now would be a waste of a great deal of time, effort and taxpayer dollars. The bottom line is that Common Core provides rigorous benchmarks that will help districts better prepare students for college and the workplace. By the Sedalia School District 200.