Responding to residents’ criticism, district leaders say national standards are helpful but don’t dictate curriculum
Responding to residents’ concerns about the impact of Common Core standards in public schools, Grafton officials said Monday they support a national effort to ensure academic proficiency but are not bound by federal mandates.
“Common Core is not really dictating what we teach,” Michelle Garven, the district’s director of learning services, said during a presentation at the Grafton School Board meeting.
“It still uses local control as our framework and guide in establishing curriculum.”
Garven’s comments came after several residents criticized the implementation of Common Core standards in English language arts and math in Grafton and other school districts across the country.
“Common Core has not been tested anywhere,” resident Jennifer Schmanski said.
“I think it’s a massive experiment. I think that our kids deserve better.”
Another resident said Common Core is an effort by the federal government to control what is taught in schools.
“Common Core is one size fits all. It seeks to standardize children,” she said.
District Technology Coordinator Rick Seybold, who said he was speaking as a local resident, defended the use of Common Core.
“Our schools are getting better. The Common Core standards are increasing rigor,” Seybold said.
Several residents asked the board to go on record opposing Common Core. But Garven challenged that suggestion, saying opposition to Common Core is often based on misinformation.
Common Core, Garven said, is not a federal program but an education initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers that is designed to establish consistent academic standards across states. Forty-four of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia are members of the Common Core Standards Initiative.
Several states, including Nebraska and Indiana in the Midwest, have not adopted the initiative.
“Since 2010, the Common Core State Standards have garnered support from business, professional, advocacy and policy stakeholders and also have the support of national parent organizations,” Garven said.
“To say that the Common Core standards haven’t improved our students would be absolutely false.”
Board President Terry Ziegler said Common Core discussions have sparked considerable interest in the community.
“It’s clear that there’s lots of passion and political views that are clashing,” Ziegler said. “There is also a lot of misinformation out there.”
Supt. Mel Lightner echoed Garven’s statement that Grafton maintains control over its curriculum.
“The board is not under any obligation to vote on Common Core ever,” Lightner said. “We have our own high standards.”
Lightner said he is wary of “federal and state intrusion into local education,” but that “Common Core standards give school districts a chance to raise academic standards to meet the demands in higher education and the workforce.”
“Education today is much more rigorous. It’s constantly evolving,” Lightner said.
Board member Mike Holloway also defended the district’s role in choosing how to apply Common Core guidelines.
“We are maintaining absolute control over our curriculum standards,” Holloway said. “We are allowed by law to determine our own curriculum.”
Lightner asked board members and residents to research Common Core information carefully before coming to conclusions.
“We’re not putting a stamp of approval on Common Core, and we’re not rejecting it, either,” he said.