MAKING THE GRADE: A look at Common Core State Standards at the local level

By Daily News • Last Updated 11:08 am on Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Making the Grade | Janet Ralph

In this column last week we discussed some of the myths and facts surrounding Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Since that time, the Legislature has included language in the budget of the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) which would prohibit the use of state funds to implement or support the CCSS. The Legislature must now revisit the issue and pass a bill allowing the MDE to continue their efforts on the Common Core before the state budget goes into effect on October 1.

I am unable to explain the reasons for the opposition to CCSS. I know that considerable effort has been expended in our local schools to implement it. So I spent some time with Diane Brissette, assistant superintendent at Greenville Public Schools. The following information is from my conversation with her.

CCSS and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are based on solid research on teaching and learning and on the premise that all, not just some students need to be successfully on the pathway to college and/or career readiness. This pathway is critical for students’ personal success, economic success and success as citizens in a representative democracy. Who can argue with that? We want our Greenville graduates to be very well prepared to meet that challenge. Therefore, we have embraced implementation of CCSS at Greenville Public Schools. These new standards will push us to improve. They are ambitious beyond any standards we’ve used before.

For the past two years, the district has been actively working on implementing these new standards. The staff at Greenville Public Schools has been focusing on the instructional shifts that are the core of both Common Core State Standards and the recently published Next Generation Science Standards Admin-istrators and teachers in Greenville, as well as at the county and state levels, have dedicated their resources of professional knowledge, time and money to this effort. This work has taken place both during the school year and in the summer months as we update curricula and provide professional development to our staff.


The Case for Urgency

CCSS and NGSS have provided a guide for research-based curricula that engages students in meaningful ways and will result in competent thinkers and problem solvers in a way that no previous curriculum has done. The focus on deep understanding of critical content and processes provides the skills and knowledge our students will need to be successful in college and the workforce. Changing back to a curriculum that is “an inch deep and a mile wide” will not help us meet this mission.

In addition to leaving our students and staff in limbo as to the direction of teaching/learning expectations, legislative action / reaction in this area leaves us feeling like our expertise and work is not valued. At the end of the day, it makes it difficult for teachers to be effective in the classroom. That is a disservice to our staff, students and community.

Unless Legislators take action, school districts around the state may be left in limbo after spending many hours preparing to implement the Common Core which had been slated to go ahead full steam in September.

Once again it is critical that our representatives in Lansing hear from us. Ask them to explain their objections — if they are objecting — to this program that has been well researched and planned out and has the support of the business community, the Michigan Department of Education and the education community as a whole.

 Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.

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