Common Core discussed by Moffat County School District, parents
March 4, 2014
It's a word that implies universality in a shared idea of how someone ought to behave or what something should be. However, the methods of how those standards are reached often are anything but widespread.
The Moffat County School District hosted a meeting Monday night at its administration building to address, among other things, the use of Common Core Standards in the region's schools. Zack Allen, integration liaison for MCSD and South Routt School District, and parent Kindra Jazwick collaborated to put together the discussion.
Jazwick said her goal was to create an "open conversation" about Common Core, state educational standards and the impact on students.
"Too many people in our community are unaware of what's going on in our schools, whether that's by choice or a lack of communication," she said.
Allen started the night stating his intent was not to "sell" anyone on Common Core but to provide a breakdown of what it is, adding that one misconception is that educational standards are the same as the curriculum, which they are not. But it's an easy mistake to make.
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"Standards inform curriculum, so they are tightly connected," he said.
Educational standards are overseen by the state, while curriculum is a local matter, Allen said, analogizing standards as a building code to ensure the architects — teachers — take the proper steps to make the house — an educational experience — that works best for the clients — students.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative was put together in 2009 when the National Governors Association convened numerous educators to determine what would be necessary for students up to grade 12 to learn in order to move beyond high school. The Common Core focuses on English language arts and math standards and first was adopted as part of the Colorado Academic Standards by the Colorado State Board of Education in 2010.
Parts of the Common Core — not all, Allen clarified — are used in the curricula of Moffat County schools, which adhere to the Colorado Academic Standards through the continued implementation of the Understanding by Design framework.
MCSD Assistant Superintendent Brent Curtice, who helped lead the meeting, said the original intent of Common Core was to have a "baseline" of standards between states so that a Colorado student can pick up right where they left off if they move to another part of the country.
The explanation was met with a mixed reaction from the crowd.
Those in attendance spent portions of the meeting split into groups first compiling their questions about Common Core and other issues then listing what they'd like to see the district provide for students in their education.
Among the frequent grievances about Common Core were people asking if it held advanced students back in their learning and if the standards that emphasize technology use in the classroom are edging out basic reading and writing skills.
Jazwick cited a math exercise under the standards that she found far more complex than necessary for someone to understand the subject. Besides just crunching the numbers, a student also is expected to explain the concept.
"Two plus two equals four, because it does," she said. "Why do you have to make it so complicated?"
Jazwick said she takes less issue with the type of methods that are part of Common Core — many of which are valid, she added — than the attitude that the standards are the only way to learn, an opinion she thinks is shared by many who don't believe control should be taken away from local educators or from parents.
The two-hour timeframe of the meeting left more questions, most of which were submitted on sticky notes, asked than answered. However, individual discussions continued among parents, teachers, principals, MCSD board members and other district employees.
Jazwick said she hopes to be able to organize more of the meetings to keep answering questions and hopefully provide a counterpoint to Common Core because "there's two sides to every story."
"You just can't cover the breadth of information in two hours, there's too much," she said. "I think the biggest thing is to get more people involved, whether they're for it, against it or have no idea. Get involved."
Allen agreed that continued discourse is needed.
"I think anytime you engage the community in conversation, even if it's something they don't want to hear, you have an opportunity to build understanding," he said.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.