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School board focuses on Common Core standards

Posted: December 19, 2013 5:40 p.m.
Updated: December 20, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan presented the pros, cons, myths and concerns about the Common Core standards to the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees at their meeting Tuesday night. Morgan made the presentation in response to a request by Trustee Don Copley. At a previous meeting, Copley said there has been a lot of contradictory information and mixed reaction to the standards.

Morgan said the best way to get familiar with Common Core is to read the standards. In general, he said, the standards were created to ensure consistency among various states in regard to education standards. The standards are just “minimum” standards that comply with federal college and career readiness standards, Morgan said. However, Common Core is not a curriculum, he said.

Morgan explained that Common Core is written to specifically address English/language arts and math, and that the standards “assume integration” with other areas such as socials studies. He acknowledged that there are pros, cons and some concerns.

He said pros include placing emphasis on application of knowledge and higher order thinking skills. Common Core also calls for more rigorous standards than are currently in place in South Carolina, but would create “apples to apples” performance standards across the country, Morgan said. To keep up with Adequate Yearly Progress goals, some states really lowered their standards; South Carolina wasn’t one of the states, however, Morgan said.

“People always say South Carolina is 49th. Well 49th compared to what? Different states play by different rules,” Morgan said.

Common Core would also increase emphasis on reading informational texts in areas such as science and social studies, Morgan said. He said a recent trip to Boeing revealed that students need to be able to be able to read technical texts, not just fiction, which Morgan saw as an economic issue that could be addressed through the Common Core.

Some of the cons include a lack of flexibility. Morgan said states can only add 15 percent more requirements to Common Core standards, but there is no information on how states will be “policed” to ensure that they are only adding that 15 percent worth of requirements. Science and social studies aren’t specifically addressed in Common Core, and there are concerns about developmental appropriateness and the cost of technology, which include a push to move to online testing, training and materials.

Morgan said other concerns include the lack of teacher and citizen input used to develop the standards, and what standardized test will be used to assess Common Core standards -- a question he said will be for the S.C. General Assembly to answer. He said there is usually a drop in test scores when new testing mechanisms are integrated. However, he said concerns over local versus federal control, as well as an overemphasis on “high stakes” testing, which Morgan said South Carolina has used since 1998, will drive the Common Core discussion.

Morgan also discussed myths  about Common Core: that it was developed by the federal government, the standards won’t allow middle school students to take algebra, and the standards deemphasizes preparation for four-year colleges.

“It’s going to require us to teach a little bit differently, but if you look at what engages kids … something that’s applicable, something that tangible to get them more engaged. I think it’s more rigorous, certainly; it’s certainly more complicated, but it’s also more engaging,” Morgan said.

Morgan said he collected most of the information through Internet searches. He said he will present more information on Common Core standards during the board’s January’s work session.

Chair Mara Jones said some YouTube videos on Common Core are inaccurate, so it was good to get some streamlined information. Copley said Common Core may be great and preferable to current standards, but if the district doesn’t question where it’s going and where it’s coming from, then they haven’t done their due diligence before recommending and adopting it. The S.C. State Board of Education has already adopted Common Core standards, but there will be questions about assessment moving forward, Morgan said.

In other news:

• KCSD Budget Coordinator Tori Smith presented the board with its 2013-2014 budget book, which includes a variety of information about the district’s budget.

• The board approved the 2014-2015 school year calendar.

• Trustees Ron Blackmon and Louis Clyburn reported on a trip to the S.C. School Board Association Legislative Conference. Blackmon said South Carolina could become a “non-competitive” state if it doesn’t take strides to improve its education system.


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