Archive for Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kansas joins movement toward national education standards

October 24, 2010


Kansas education officials now have joined 37 other states in adopting national proficiency standards for reading and math.

And science could be next.

The movement toward national standards — the Kansas State Board of Education joined the program earlier this month — comes with plenty of advantages, said Rick Doll, superintendent of the Lawrence school district.

Among them is snuffing the likelihood of political flare-ups, such as the off-and-on debate over whether Kansas should de-emphasize the teaching of evolution in public schools.

“What we teach in school should not be dependent on the political leanings of a governing body,” Doll said. “With this, there’s less chance of that happening.”

While each local school district still controls its respective curriculum, the state uses assessments and other standardized tests to set expectations for all students to achieve. Because the state now has agreed to accept national standards for reading and math, each district soon will be working toward educating its students to meet the new standards.

The standards, known as Common Core Standards, are devised through a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Kansas is the 38th state to join the program, designed to establish common expectations for students preparing for college or pursuit of a career.

Among other states already signed on are California, Florida, New York, Illinois and Ohio, along with Kansas neighbors Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri.

Having common standards will help ensure that students coming into Kansas from participating states will arrive having worked toward the same standards in education as their new classmates, said Janet Waugh, chairwoman of the Kansas State Board of Education.

And once the folks behind Common Core Standards turn their attention to science and social studies, she said, chances will be improved that evolution will remain a small-yet-important portion of everyone’s educational expectations.

‘Mainstream’ approach

“They will use experts from every field, plus a lot of other people, to write the standards,” said Waugh, a Democrat whose district represents eastern Lawrence, Eudora, Baldwin City and all of Jefferson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties. “I think it will reflect the mainstream opinion of what the standards should be — ‘mainstream’ would be the mainstream science community, the mainstream history community and the mainstream social studies community. That’s mainstream.

“To me, science, history or government should not be based on historical opinion. They should be based on scientific or historical fact.”

Deciding just where that scientific fact resides has been a political battleground during the past dozen years, at least at the state level in Kansas. Back in 1999, during Waugh’s first year on the state board of education, a majority of members voted to add the teaching of creationism to the state’s science standards.

Two years later, however, voters had elected enough new board members to join Waugh and others in eliminating creationism from the standards.

The issue flared up again a few years ago, this time with proponents of “intelligent design” being elected to the board. A majority soon voted to de-emphasize the teaching of evolution in schools, a move that — again — would be overturned after the next board election.

Waugh concedes that while political discussion continues, the move toward common standards should help focus the board’s energy on other issues: how to improve student achievement, and ways to gets students ready for success beyond the classroom.

“Evolution — that’s what we’re known for,” Waugh said. “That’s the one question we’re always asked: ‘What’s your position on evolution? What’s your position on science?’

“The politics need to be out of it. We need to focus on teaching all kids at high levels, and make sure they’re prepared, when they graduate, for a career or post-secondary education — whatever they desire. That’s what we need to focus on.”

Balanced effort

The Core Common Standards should help, Doll said. And it’s important to remember that such standards will not be the end of the discussion.

Each state adopting the core standards may opt to add content to the standards, expanding them by as much as 15 percent. Such additional standards would be just that — additional — and come on top of the national expectations for proficiency agreed to by other participating states.

Doll is confident that the core standards will help Kansas both maintain and improve its strong standing in education, all while moving closer to avoiding the political discussions that might get in the way.

“You have to have everybody at the table,” Doll said, of efforts to establish standards. “All points of view should be expressed. Everybody should be at the table, but the table should be balanced.

“With national common standards, it’s (easier to have) the ability to balance standards.”


Stuart Evans 7 years, 6 months ago

with national standards, the department of education, who's head is picked by the president, sets the standards. How could this be anything but politically motivated whims? national standards also give the parents a feeling of less control over what is being taught to their children.

Yes, I understand that a single set of standards would seem provide an easier baseline to judge how much kids are learning across the board, but this will be used to further indoctrinate our kids into nationalism.

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree. With the non-insane first part, anyway. I think standards and curriculum should be based on technocracy, not political whims. That said, local school boards are often run by stealth candidates with political agendas, so decentralization hasn't so far been a great remedy.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 6 months ago

if the second part seems insane, then you just haven't found the rest of the information that renders it not insane.

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

No, I just find indoctrinated nationalism to already be quite prevalent in American culture, most often by the very groups who claim to abhor the idea.

SnakeFist 7 years, 6 months ago

From the article: "The standards...are devised through a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers."

Maybe if we had higher standards when you were in school, you would have learned how to read - the standards are national but they aren't federal.

And most parents don't have enough education themselves to control what's taught to their children.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 6 months ago

duhhmm.. yup, yer wright, I aints gots no smartes at awle.

We've had public education in this country for a long long time, and there have been some national standards for a long long time (every school, county, state, doesn't get it's own version of the text books). Most parents aren't smart enough to teach their kids because they've been dumbed down through social engineering. KU football, and Next Top Model have become so much more important than little Johnnies ability to make up his own mind or think rationally.

The government is not going to be helpful in making the public smarter, merely more willing to get in line, sheep!

Centerville 7 years, 6 months ago

“What we teach in school should not be dependent on the political leanings of a governing body,” Doll said. “With this, there’s less chance of that happening.”

This from our supt of schools. And you may still be wondering why Johnny can't read.

Grayghost 7 years, 6 months ago

Federal participation is authorized in the Constitution under which Amendment or Article?

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

Boy, what injustice! "stealing their money" and "forcibly bringing students." Parents should have the right to take their kids to private, parochial, or home schools. Oh, that's right, they already do. Too bad your money is stolen to pay for that public education and occasionally used to fund (no better performing) charter schools, just like it's stolen to pay for roads you don't drive on and fires that aren't at your house. Life is so unfair outside of libertarian wingnutatopia.

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

Ooh, ooh, I do!

Pretty sure he was referring to geek's bringing up the roads.

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

If he was, it just demonstrates that he doesn't know what a strawman argument is.

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm sure Liberty will entertain us with a few later.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

Reading begins in the home. If Johnny cannot read what are the parents doing?

Once the national standards are in place how we get there might come up for discussion. Public schools are a best bang for the tax buck so why not make a few changes to maximize that tax buck. Most importantly provide a venue that allows our students to maximize their opportunities.

Empower the students! Empower the Instructors! WE can make anything work!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 6 months ago

Thinking outside the box beginning at the Junior High Level = scheduling classes similar to college class schedules.

Let's consider that many parents are working and some may not have the background necessary to address a students subject matter. Let's take on this challenge.

The objective in fact is to empower the student, feed comprehension, improve testing based on learning and creating a less stressful environment yet more interesting and productive. Which of course prepares our students for the real world of higher education which could be Junior College,4 year college or Vo-Tech.

*School hours: 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM Eliminates public school traffic from the morning rush hour. If students need dropped off a bit early perhaps lab work,art projects,wood working or exercise could be scheduled.

Scheduled Exercise = power walk,swimming,cycling/elliptical or aerobics = energy generation

Is it necessary for USD 497 students to be doing class per se 5 days a week? How about 3 days for "class time" and two whole school days devoted to home work and exercise during the school week at school? Yes the the teaching staff would still be at school 5 days a week.

It would seem that parents could appreciate two homework days a week at school with access to the teaching staff. Teaching staff in fact puts in plenty of time after hours perhaps these two days would be helpful in that regard as well. Excellent use of school hours.

This approach introduces children to academic responsibility. Work ethic. Isn't this empowering the students?

This plan is assuming that parents and students would be in discussion about how "home work days" would be utilized. Parents then would review the homework days accomplishments. Parent/teacher meetings would provide other means by which to determine where the emphasis of study needs directed.

The school library would be open of course for research.

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

"School hours: 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM Eliminates public school traffic from the morning rush hour."

And dumps it into the afternoon rush hour. Brilliant.

"Reading begins in the home."

So does cut-and-paste.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years, 6 months ago

Spam spam spam. Merrill, why do you homeschool?

avetaysmom 7 years, 6 months ago

"Reading begins at home"

I have read to my children since they were babies, and I have one who reads very well, the other she struggles, get so sick of these people out thier who are so easy to point fingers at the parents when it comes to school learning problems, some kids just have that, a learning disability. I see how much my daughter struggles to keep up and these standardize tests are no help, she needs help finding the best way that fits her learning style, she goes to jr. high next year and I am hoping with extensive tutoring(which we cannot afford but do it)she will not fall inbetween the cracks as one of those kids that just skate by just enough.

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

Yes, this. Twenty percent of all kids are dyslexic. That's one in five. And plenty of them have parents who read to them every night, so they can shove their parent blame in their pipe and smoke it.

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

Although estimates (and that's what they are, estimates) vary widely (most between 2-15% of the population), research tends to suggest it's between 5 and 9% of schoolchildren.

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

Shaywitz, MD 2003, "Overcoming Dyslexia" She has the rate at 20% based partially on her work with the Connecticut Longitudinal Study.

Also see "Identifying, Assessing, and Treating Dyslexia at School" By Catherine Christo, John Martin Davis, Stephen E. Brock, which says that "although only 5% of students had severe challenges associated with this condition, 20% of school aged children appear to display some symptoms of dyslexia."

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 6 months ago

And why do you pay a tutor? Probably the same reason that I pay a tutor. The teachers, bless them, don't have enough time in the day to give those that struggle the help they need. Instead, the teachers are trying to comply with the STANDARDS. Oh sure, you can ask for help, and your child will be rounded up for 15-20 min. of extra reading help. Of course, then your child has to play catch-up on the work missed. How's that for a contradiction. "Those who need extra help reading will be given extra reading time, and afterwards asked to please hurry up and do the rest of their work".

In Lawrence, If you have a child who needs some creative educating, you are in charge. It's up to the parent to find out what's wrong, and what helps. I hope that you are as fortunate as I have been in having teachers that are willing to help. I wish that these standards would go away, so that we had time to educate our kids and could stop training them for tests.

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

It's not the standards that need to go away but NCLB that does.

weeslicket 7 years, 6 months ago

way late on this again. seems to me all this discussion really hinges on what the national standards turn out to be.

will these standards turn out to be reasonable standards of performance? right now, we just do not know.

Clevercowgirl 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm sorry, but I can't believe that more standards is a good thing. Too many topics are already covered at any given level. Very few are seen through to create a full and working knowledge. Adding another level of standards to the NCLB and State Standards is ludicruous. Is this what were doing? It's hard to tell from the article. How many sets of standards is an elementary school kids going to be subject to? Is this issue driven education? Are we joining so we won't have any more embarassing Darwin debates? More politics?

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 6 months ago

Have you ever stopped to wonder why? To me it says that in those cultures education is far more valued than in this one. Maybe we should take a look at that.

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

For one thing, reading disabilities, including dyslexia, vary across languages. English is a very difficult language, comparatively, to learn to read, given the huge variations in the pronunciation of the same letters and combinations (e.g. thou, though, thought, through, tough, etc.).

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 6 months ago

Which would make it doubly difficult for people from other cultures, not speaking native English, to achieve what wilbur says. How does this dispute what I said? Personally, I think what wilbur said isn't the truth in the first place. I've seen no stats or proof that "new immigrants" make better grades or achieve more in our educational system than others. BUT if that exists I still think we need to look at why that occurs. The most likely reason is because the culture values education more.

geekyhost 7 years, 6 months ago

Since one of the characteristics of dyslexia is difficulty learning foreign languages, it would seem the rate would actually be higher among immigrant populations if the magical key to higher foreign achievement is merely an easier to decode language as nota seems to be saying.

But then we're all just riffing on oneeye's statement without verifying the claim.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 6 months ago

The proposed new standards are similar to those used in Kansas, but more rigorous. For a look at the current standards, try Here's just one sample from the high school math section: Ninth and Tenth Grades Knowledge Base Indicators The student… 1. knows, explains, and uses equivalent representations for real numbers and algebraic expressions including integers, fractions, decimals, percents, ratios; rational number bases with integer exponents; rational numbers written in scientific notation; absolute value; time; and money (2.4.K1a) ($), e.g., –4/2 = (–2); a(-2) b(3) = b3/a2. 2. compares and orders real numbers and/or algebraic expressions and explains the relative magnitude between them (2.4.K1a) ($), e.g., will (5n)2 always, sometimes, or never be larger than 5n? The student might respond with (5n)2 is greater than 5n if n > 1 and (5n)2 is smaller than 5 if o < n < 1............. =====Just for fun, download a few and try them out on your friends who think schools don't teach anything!

Paul R Getto 7 years, 6 months ago

No takers, huh? Don't ask me. I was an English major.......YOU do the math!

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