2.10.2010

Kentucky to be first to endorse national education standards


"On Wednesday, the state will become the first in the nation to endorse the so-called “Common Core State Standards Initiative,” during a meeting of officials from the state Department of Education; the Council on Postsecondary Education, which coordinates the state’s higher education system; and the state’s Education Professional Standards Board, which certifies that state’s teachers and school administrators.The idea is to align coursework and materials in every state, and to establish clear, consistent expectations of what students have to learn at each grade level in preparation for college and the workforce."


Here is what I know of this. KY PTA has been instrumental on the task force, encouraging legislators to provide clear explanations of what this Senate Bill means to our parents and children. We as parents are inundated with books that tell us what to expect when we are expecting, what to expect the toddler years, etc, but time and time again when we enroll our child in school we are often given vague statements of what they should learn in each grade. Then parents are often asked to translate these expectations into specific benchmarkers and sadly we compare our children to one another. For instance, all third graders at my son's elementary are learning angles, division, multiplication. Is this the standard at another school in the same state, at what week should they be on task for this, and if he isn't "getting it" will he be given the time to "get it?" Also, even in a classroom you will have children with a wide range of skill levels, and as parents we need to know what the goals of the class are. As a parent, and an advocate for my children as well as the children in the district, I believe that we are often the last thought of in this type of conversation. The legislators and governor will announce this initiative. Our school superintendents will then take that information (a 70 page document btw) and explain it to their staff, who in turn will train the principals, who in turn will train the teachers...but what about the parents? And isn't this like the telephone game? What happens if one superintendent explains it just a bit differently to his/her staff than another...then you end up without core standards. The teachers union president spoke against this policy, however we must all come together and be in agreement. If you have a policy that teachers don't want to follow then all the hard work by our officials and parent volunteers is void.


I know that teaching is a difficult profession, I certainly could not be in a room with 20 4-year olds trying to meet their educational and emotional needs 6 1/2 hours a day. So I encourage those parents to be partners, to be engaged, to assist in the education process. Sometimes that means cutting out shapes, or going on a field trip, and sometimes that means pointing out that our children are failing to learn, not because they are incapable of learning, but because a teacher is failing to teach. Kentucky tends to send very mixed signals when it comes to education. We have this great education standards initiative, but we can't pass a bill raising the drop out age from 16 to 18. We can't pass a bill requiring physical movement for 150 minutes a week, which would do so much to combat the childhood obesity crisis in our state (and something that First Lady Obama is spearheading), we pass bills that cancel out the philosophy of SBDMs by stating that a school superintendent only has to give an SBDM three choices for a new principal and three weeks to choose one of the three. They don't get to ask for any other candidates and if they can't choose one the Superintendent does. Why? Because a Legislator thinks that too often an SBDM goes with the status quo. Now an SBDM will have to go with the status quo because they won't be given any other choice. We encourage our students to apply for a $2,500 scholarship whose theme is "After College I will..." but we can't even get our kids to college, because the drop out age is 16!As a parent I want to know, as much as I can, that my children are being educated in a way that will prepare them for the future. If we move from KY to Arizona, I want to be assured that they will go from one class into the other without skipping an educational step. That there will only be emotional and social adjustments to be made, and that an A in a class in Kentucky is an A in a class in Arizona. I want my children to feel confident in their abilities, so confident, so encouraged by teachers and school climate that dropping out at 16 isn't even on their radar. That dreaming out loud and planning for what they will do after college is. I want my children to know that even if I don't get 6th grade math, I will listen to them, that I will ask the teacher how I can help, and I will attend parent teacher conferences not just because they are struggling, but because they are succeeding.


But not only do I want this for my children, but I want it for their friends, their classmates, and their families. I want children to not be made to feel they are failures because a standardized test didn't rank them or their school "high enough." I want all children to know that they can make a difference, that their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears etc matter to me and to our city, state and nation. I don't think this is impossible, I believe that "It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult." (Seneca).




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