SPECIAL REPORT: Common Core, a common concern for parents and educators

Common Core crowd FOX21 - File Photo

Colorado’s new assessment standards are the source of an explosive debate among parents, teachers and state administrators regarding our education system.

The topic is not isolated to just Colorado, but the national implications of Common Core teaching and testing affect our school districts, teachers, students and parents.

Colorado adopted Common Core in 2010, with more than 40 other states across the country. Since then, several states have dropped out. Colorado is known as a “Plus 15” state, choosing to add an additional 15 percent on top of the core practices offered. This is the first year Colorado will test Common Core standards.


PearsonAccess
 is the group organizing testing practices known as PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and students will test twice a year.

There is a major campaign to reverse Common Core within our schools. Parents speak out with concerns of unhealthy secrecy, intrusive data collection, pressure on students and schools with big money behind molding our children’s learning potentials. Many educators are too afraid to comment, fearing corporate backlash.

Common Core is a


new set of standards. New ways of teaching, learning and now, testing. It was developed by a consortium of states in a response to a request from the government, that we provide some sort of systematic way of educating kids across state lines. It creates the same educational path for assessment.

Now, Common Core is becoming more of a common concern.

“We do have a say in how and what and why you teach our kids,” said Larry Marcus, a parent of three students at James Irwin Charter Schools.

“I have a lot of problems with the standards. I think that it’s going to in effect dumb them down.”

“I understand that fear, that we’re taking the standards and bringing them down to the lowest common denominator. I would just argue, that is not the case. We’re challenged by these new standards,” said Eric Mason,
 Director of Assessment for District 11. “There will be a lot of focus on critical thinking and problem solving. Asking students to look at not just can you calculate this in your head or on paper, but can you figure this out in real life?”

Marcus believes they make it sound great, and they make it sound so rigorous with the students learning so much. But he added, “They’re more concerned with the process than they are the right answer.”

Many parents from town hall style meetings throughout the school districts are worried about their child’s educational needs. Will educators focus solely on teaching to the test, or fulfill more learning objectives?

“That’s the balance. That’s the biggest concern absolutely. And that’s the thing that both our principals and teachers have to be increasingly aware of. Not teaching to the test. Teaching to the standards,” said Mason.

Parents and students can choose to opt out of testing, but schools will have a negative reflection.

“Schools do feel that opt out because the state does judge our performance based on participation. How many students took the test? Because the law says test all children. And so we have to reach a 95 percent testing rate. If we don’t, it can hurt our school performance framework. If a school falls below a certain rating, it starts a clock. And when that clocks ticks year after year, if you can’t get your performance rating up, there are some pretty significant penalties that can be put in place by the state, such as taking over that school, and we don’t want that clock to start on any of our schools because of participation. We just have to be very cognizant of the fact the state is watching because of the federal law,” said Mason.

The District 11 Director of Assessment believes we are in a massive transition time. Everybody’s going to have to take a look at what happens this year with this first big PARCC test. Then take a step back, and recalculate how we teach, educate and asses students.

District 11 did request a testing waiver for its students. They’re concerned with the amount of testing driving decisions locally, and pressure on its teachers. They were declined by the state.

If you would like to voice your concerns both for and against Common Core, comments are welcomed by the following agencies below:


Colorado Standards and Assessments Task Force
 


Colorado State Legislators
 


Denver Alliance
 (Survey on testing within schools)

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