DIXON - Tuesday evening, Dixon school district superintendent Michael Juenger and assistant superintendent Margo Empen spoke with 45 concerned parents and community members about the districts implementation of Common Core education standards.
Assistant Superintendent Empen gave a 45 minute Powerpoint presentation on the nuts and bolts of the district's implementation of Common Core and the basics of what is different about Common Core compared to the state of Illinois education standards.
Dixon Superintendent Michael Juenger said during the meeting, "Has our local control been eroded a little bit? Yeah. Have we been forced to chase dollars a little bit? Yeah." Mr. Juenger also pointed out that he believes that, "The board of education has the final say on what students are doing."
Assistant superintendent Empen would say of Common Core, "How do we meet the needs of our kids, since its going to be our kids that are expected to produce..."
One Dixon parent was very skeptical of the whole premise of Common Core saying, "We got sold a bill of goods here from the federal level...This is another panacea for a perceived problem that maybe doesn't exist."
Another Dixon parent echoed that sentiment as she wondered if Common Core was even necessary, "What is the problem, what is going on that is causing this and how do you know this is the best solution to that problem, if one even exists?"
One apparent grandparent of a child in the Dixon school system said about homework assignments that, "Talking to parents whose children are in this Core curriculum that's not what students are learning, what they are learning is I can't go to mom and dad for help, they can't help me, I can only go to my teacher."
As the meeting unfolded, Superintendent Juenger took a moment to bring up a meeting held the month prior by the Sauk Valley Tea Party in which Common Core was the topic and was discussed at length. Mr. Juenger was at the Sauk Valley Tea Party meeting and said, "I was a little concerned with some of the things I heard."
The things Mr. Ginger took the time to comment on was the belief by Common Core opponents that the education standards would allow the federal government access to personal and social information and a data base thereof for every student that could then be tracked.
Mr. Juenger said, "We're not providing information to the federal government on sexual orientation, on parents political affiliation, or religion. But that was mentioned, I don't know and I'm the superintendent of schools, I don't know-we don't ask our students that and we don't provide that to anybody."
Michelle Malkin has more information about the government using Common Core to track students at her website.
Sauk Valley Tea Party coordinator Amanda Norris had the following to say about the Dixon school district meeting on Common Core:
I think these folks truly believe that this is a good thing...which is
very naive, at best. They have bought into the propaganda being pushed
by Common Core proponents.
"But they are stuck between a rock and a hard place--all the tests will be aligned to the core standards and they will have little choice but to teach to the tests. Under Common Core, they will face many of the same problems schools face now...which, unfortunately will have the same results...a deteriorating quality of education," Norris said. "I don't really know what to say about this meeting. I think they are trying to calm our fears by regurgitating the same talking points we have heard a million times."
"Under CCSSI, they must teach all of the standards, but cannot add more than 15% of additional material. Chris Connell, a math professor from Indiana University opposes Common Core because it will not prepare students for college work and thereby will increase remediation rates," she said. "Jason Zimba, one of the authors of the math standards, testified in Indiana that the college readiness of the Common Core math standards doesn't meet Purdue or Indiana University requirements. He said students would need more math than the core contains for entrance into these state Universities."
When one person asked if there were examples of Common Core producing positive results, Ms. Empen mentioned that Kentucky had seen improvement since implementing Common Core Standards. That is not much of a positive, in my opinion, since Kentucky's standardized test scores were some of the worst in the nation! For states such as New York, with a history of high achievement, the results have been disastrous!
Olivia Goodwin, a first grade teacher in Oklahoma expressed concerns that the standards are not more rigorous. "From my first grade standards in math, nothing has become more rigorous. I'm no longer teaching my first graders about money. They don't get any money skills in kindergarten. They no longer get money skills in first grade. They don't get any money skills until second grade. Calendar skills are gone. Fractions are gone. Patterning is gone. That's all moved back to a higher grade. So how is Common Core more rigorous when in my personal experience with first grade math standards, nothing has become more rigorous? They've just taken stuff away."
Looking at the examples they handed out raises serious concerns. They use the example of Charlotte's Web. They list example questions of the old expectations and examples of the new expectations. The old expectations require students to glean concrete answers from the text. The new expectations are all subjective, all focused on the students point of view and feelings about the text. How do you test comprehension when the questions are all geared toward subjective emotion?
That leads to another concern...increased testing costs. The Heritage Foundation has released a study which shows that average per pupil expenses will increase under common core by over $500 per student per year. How will our cash-strapped schools absorb that additional expense? According to PARCC, the computer-based tests include many questions which require students to show their work...in both the Language Arts and Math exams.
Those answers require human scoring and cost much more to grade than the standard multiple choice tests which can be graded by computer. It also leads one to wonder who will be grading them. What if the person responsible for grading the exam disagrees with the point of view displayed by the student? There is a lot of room for abuse in a system that relies on subjective assessments and also a high likelihood that there will be no consistency in scoring from one region to another.
Overall, I was disappointed that the meeting format did not allow any in-depth discussion of parent concerns. It was mainly focused on promoting the few positive aspects of the standards while diminishing the many areas of legitimate concern.