State Board Moves Ahead on Standards

State Board Moves Ahead on Standards

After an extraordinary three hours of public comments on Common Core reading and math standards (previously adopted in 2010) and proposed Next Generation Science Standards, the Kansas State Board of Education voted 8-2 on Wednesday to approve the new science standards.

The action follows a Legislative session marked by efforts to block, de-fund or delay these standards, including a bill aimed at delaying the new science standards until next April. That bill passed on the final day of the session by the Senate but was rejected by the House.

The State Board vote is unlikely to end the debate; in fact, it may be just beginning.  Legislators and organizations opposing the Common Core vow to continue efforts next session and into the 2014 elections when all 125 State Representative and five of ten State Board of Education positions will be on the ballot.

A Bit of Background
The Common Core academic standards are reading and math standards developed under the leadership of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (which represents the counterparts of the Kansas Education Commissioner).  The purpose was to allow states to join in a common framework for K-12 student expectations.  States were allowed some leeway in adopting the standards.  Kansas adopted modified Common Core standards as our state’s Kansas College and Career Ready Standards.  Click the links to see more information about Kansas reading/language arts and math standards.

One of the main criticisms of the Common Core is that it is a federal initiative.  States are not required to adopt the Common Core, but the Obama Administration has encouraged states to do so by making it a factor in Race to the Top grant funding and No Child Left Behind Waivers, and by funding development of new tests based on the Common Core standards.  Kansas is not participating the Race to the Top, but has received an NCLB waiver and is a member of the Smarter Balanced test consortium with other states.

The Next Generation Science Standards approved yesterday are not part of the Common Core process, but Kansas participated with 25 other states in developing the standards. Here is a  link to the KSDE science standards webpage. Much of the controversy over the science standards appears to focus on the treatment of evolution and climate change.

Here are links to news stories about yesterday’s State Board action from the Associated Press and Topeka Capital Journal.  Capital Journal reporter Celia Llopes-Jepsen also had this recent story about concerns over student records privacy.  Finally, from USA Today, an editorial  supporting the Common Core project, with an opposing view.

The Debate Continues
At the May State Board meeting, a number of Common Core opponents spoke at the Citizens’ Open Forum.  KASB appeared as a supporter of the Common Core as part of the NCLB waiver.  School superintendents and other supporters promoted a larger contingent yesterday in defense of both the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.  Another big group of opponents appeared, making clear that opponents are working to strengthen organized efforts against the Common Core and related assessment issues.  A number of Legislators on both sides of the issues also attended or spoke.

KASB Advocacy Meeting at Washburn Tech, June 6, Topeka 
One of 24 meetings around the state – happening in June –
to discuss issues facing school districts.
Board members, administrators, teachers, district
staff and community are urged to participate.

If opposition to the Common Core continues to grow, it is an issue local board members and other school leaders will have to face with their staff, parents and community.  To prepare for this issue, standards and assessments are one of the three key topics KASB is discussing at summer advocacy meetings around the state this month.  We have held seven meetings in northeast Kansas since June 3. Our “tour” continues tonight in Olathe at 6 p.m.  Next week, we hold eight meeting in western Kansas Monday through Thursday, and the last week of June we finish up in central and southeastern Kansas.  Register on-line to attend a meeting near you.