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Archive for Monday, November 25, 2013

Lawrence school board members satisfied with Common Core phase-in

November 25, 2013

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Contact Journal-World education reporter Elliot Hughes: ehughes@ljworld.com

Lawrence school board members said Monday night they were generally pleased with the district's progress in implementing the new Common Core standards for reading and math.

But the test of how well students and parents accept them will likely come later, after the first round of statewide tests that are tied to those standards.

"I don't think people should have false expectations. I think they should wait and see," board member Randy Masten said. "I think we're moving in the right direction as far as a more comprehensive learning environment, trying to make it actually translate into the real world rather than just rote memorization."

Masten and other board members commented after hearing a presentation from district staff about how teachers are learning to put the new standards into effect in their classrooms.

The new standards, which have now been adopted in 45 states, are meant to be more rigorous than earlier standards. They are also supposed to be designed so that students are ready to enter college or the workforce by the time they graduate.

For that reason, they are officially known in Kansas as the Kansas College and Career Ready standards.

The presentation focused mainly on how the district's new "Teachers On Special Assignment," or TOSAs, are working with teachers at elementary, middle and high schools to develop new lesson plans and new teaching strategies tailored to meet the new standards.

Common standards have sparked controversy throughout the country, including at the Kansas State Board of Education, where opponents have spoken out, urging the state board to repeal them or delay their implementation.

In New York, the first state to begin testing students based on Common Core standards, scores plummeted in the first year of implementation, with only 26 percent of students scoring proficient or better in reading and only 30 percent passing in math.

That prompted the noted education policy analyst Diane Ravitch to publicly urge teachers and principals to boycott the testing program.

But Lawrence school board members say they have not been hearing that kind of opposition from local parents.

"I think a lot of them are still expectant," board member Kris Adair said. "The only things I'm hearing from parents are their delight with blended learning. I'm not hearing anything about the Kansas curriculum."

The presentation on implementing Common Core standards capped an otherwise brief and uneventful board meeting.

The only other business item was an update on the Lawrence district's enrollment and the effect it has on the funding it receives from the state.

Finance director Kathy Johnson said the preliminary, "unaudited" enrollment in Lawrence this year is 9,995.4 full time equivalent, or FTE students. When various weightings for at-risk, special education and other factors are included, that translates to a "weighted" enrollment of 17,563.3 FTE students, an increase of 496.2 weighted FTE over last year.

As a result, the district will receive about $2.5 million in additional funding through a combination of general state aid and the district's Local Option Budget.

Assistant Superintendent Kyle Hayden said that any spending increases this year in excess of the increased funding would come out of cash balances from certain special revenue funds, or out of contingency reserves.

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