6/12/2013 6:00:00 AM Common Core education standards said to be 'academic-lite'
By STEVEN THOMAS Staff Reporter
When classes resume in August, both the city and county schools will implement more of the new Common Core State Standards.
Common Core is a series of education standards and curriculum changes that, according to Philadelphia Public Schools Student Services Director Christie Rowcliff, integrates all subject together.
"A lot of reading and math integrated into social studies and history," Rowcliff said, noting Common Core was expected to be implemented before the 2014-2015 school year begins for grades K-12.
Jamie Gass and Charles Chieppo of the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank, say the federal intrusion in schools brings standards that are academic-lite.
For example, the Common Core ignores the novels of Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton and Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn," they said. It also delays the point at which Massachusetts students reach Algebra I - the gateway to higher math study - from eighth to ninth grade or later.
Common Core was voluntarily adopted by the state of Mississippi in 2010.
"Common Core recycles a decades-old, top-down approach to education. Its roots are in a letter sent to Hillary Clinton by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, after Bill Clinton's presidential victory in 1992," the wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal.
"The letter laid out a plan 'to remold the entire American system' into a centralized one run by 'a system of labor-market boards at the local, state and federal levels' where curriculum and 'job matching' will be handled by government functionaries."
They also wrote that compared with Massachusetts' former standards, Common Core's English standards reduce by 60% the amount of classic literature, poetry and drama that students will read.
Local school boards have until the 2014-2015 school year to be fully implemented.
Rowcliff said that when classes begin in August, Common Core would be implemented in grades K-8 in the city schools.
She said the school has been working with Common Core for the past three years.
It's implemented in stages, she said, noting that last year it was implemented through sixth grade while staff training began for seventh and eighth grades.
City Schools Superintendent Terry Larabee said staff training for grades 9-12 would begin when it is available from the the state.
In the Neshoba County School District, Superintendent Tommy Dearing said they would be fully implement Common Core this year through the 12th grade.
Last year the county school district implemented up to the eighth grade, he said.
The popularity and effectiveness of Common Core has been a highly debated topic with school superintendents having different opinions.
"It provides a higher level of thinking skills [for students]," Larabee said. "[There will be] higher depths of knowledge across the board."
Rowcliff agreed, saying the program requires students to think more and apply what they have learned.
"We'll see a lot of student performance improvement," she said, noting that teachers and administrators have also been positive of the program. "They see the value of the more rigorous questions."
Dearing disagreed saying that while the program provides a more rigorous testing course, he questioned the "amount of time spent testing. It takes time out of instruction."
The program will help students better prepare for college, he said.
"I wish we had one test at one time (as opposed to several tests spread out over a period of days or weeks. It would be a more adequate measure," he said, suggesting the ACT test was a good example.
Even with these varying opinions, Common Core is moving forward, especially with the support of the state Department of Education.
Interim State Superintendent of Education Lynn J. House, Ph.D., fully supports Common Core.
"When an Olympic high jumper wants to reach new heights, he doesn't leave the bar where it is and expect to meet that goal," she has said.
"To be competitive with other high jumpers, he must raise the bar."
She said Common Core sets the bar at a high - but reachable - height and will ensure Mississippi students have the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a college, career and global economy.
"These standards are a critical step forward in providing all of Mississippi's students with the first-rate education they deserve," House said.