As a public educator, I aim to share my story with those interested about what really happens inside today's classroom. I hope my stories inspire, educate, and entertain you, as the calling of teaching is never neat or predictable. Please note that my blog content does not necessarily reflect the viewpoints or beliefs of my school district or colleagues.
Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
Photo courtesy of DiscoveryEducation.com
Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown
My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.
"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Common Core State Curriculum = A Helpful Necessity or Not Needed?
Published Online: September 19, 2011
Common Core Draws Critics as Districts Plan Implementation
By Melody Guyton Butts, The Herald-Sun, N.C. (MCT)
Two school board members expressed alarm this week over Durham Public Schools' plan to implement the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the 2012-13 school year, citing concerns that the district would be too quick to adopt a curriculum that is too new.
Implementation of the national standards is heavily tied to federal Race to the Top funds, of which the Durham district has been granted about $3.6 million.
"We're just trying everything," said board member Natalie Beyer. "I would ask that we slow down and try to do it right so that we don't do harm to the neediest students." She said she'd like the school district to seek a waiver from the state to either opt out or delay the curriculum's implementation "until there has been time to really work out bugs in the system."
But others on the board said change is needed—and it can't wait.
"If you don't have cancer, maybe time is not an issue," said board Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown. "But if you have cancer, time is an issue, and you need to get it done now. There is a cancer growing in communities of color. We don't have time to keep waiting and waiting, and letting someone else try it out. We need to go on and do it."
Superintendent Eric Becoats said he was unsure, without doing some research, as to what would be the consequences of not implementing the curriculum that North Carolina, along with 43 other states and the District of Columbia, has adopted.
"I just guess when I think about that initially, I think there would probably be some implications that we would have," he said. "For example, if we're not going to implement that curriculum or follow the state standards, I'm not really sure how the state would evaluate Durham Public Schools. I'm not sure if we would receive funding from the state."
The Common Core standards will add consistency to education nationwide, and they better equip students to compete internationally, said Lewis Ferebee, DPS chief of staff. North Carolina is pairing the standards, focused on math and English language arts, with new curricula in other subjects, the North Carolina Essential Standards, written using the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy of cognitive objectives.
The current curricula include "too many standards, and they're very broadly defined," he said. "So part of the Common Core and new state standards is to narrow in our focus, go deeper into standards. That's something that we're seeing internationally as we look at our competitors across the globe."
Prior to the standards-based movement, "we were really driven by textbooks," Ferebee said. Instruction, under the Common Core, will be less reliant on textbooks and more on software.
That worries Beyer and fellow board member Nancy Cox. "We just need to be cognizant that there is money to be made by testing companies in particular, and this is a huge reason why this is being pushed," Cox said.
Board member Leigh Bordley said she's not thrilled that "there are other forces at work," but she's also cognizant that textbook companies have been driving curricula for years now.
"If the assessment companies are driving our curricula to some degree now, it doesn't matter to me as long as the curricula and the standards are sound and good," she said.
The achievement gap between white and minority students calls for a change of course, Forte-Brown said.
Referring to Ferebee's comments that new curricula could help students compete internationally, she said, "Our children haven't been able to even compete in Durham. They can't go out and get the jobs in the [Research Triangle] Park, the Chamber of Commerce tells us that. ... I want us to keep pressing forward, doing what the national stage is saying, because what we have been doing has not worked."
Both Beyer and Cox suggested that larger factors, outside of the school district's control, are to blame for the achievement gap.
"This, in my opinion, is just another diversion tactic to take our eyes of the real issue, and that is this country's lack of enthusiasm around addressing the real issues of poverty," Cox said. "It's not the standards. The standards we have in place are strong standards."
The board plans to further discuss the issue—which was brought before the board as information only, without action requested—in October. Meanwhile, the school district will continue with its plans to train teachers and administrators in the new curricula this school year.
Copyright (c) 2011 The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C. Distributed by MCT Information Services.