From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
TRUSSVILLE — A bill to repeal Common Core standards in Alabama will be taken up by a House Committee after spring break and educators have responded with concerns.
Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill said Alabama has already revised original common core standards to create the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS). Neill believes the problem with SB119 is that it “recommends sweeping curricular changes without comprehensive educator input.” That, she said, will “impede progress” and create confusion.
“I trust our Trussville teachers and administrators,” Neill said. “I have studied the curriculum and I have invited all of the Trussville educators over many years to report to me or any administrator subject matter that could be deemed inappropriate in the state-mandated curriculum. As a result, not one teacher has reported a standard that represents inappropriate subject matter.
“The current CCRS standards are high and the standards are aligned with state testing. We are working hard to stay the course and keep our students moving forward, not backward.”
Neill suggested lawmakers use a method already in place to review and revise content on a yearly basis.
Jefferson County Superintendent Dr. Craig Pouncey said he believes changing the standards now would erase all the progress teachers and students have been working for. He said it is important for schools to know what direction they are supposed to be going and that suddenly changing that direction is like “pulling the rug out” from under educators and making them start over.
“I want our children in Jefferson County to be competitive with those kids in Nashville, Tennessee, Athens, Georgia, Jackson, Mississippi, and the only way we can make that happen is if we have the same standards on the same grades throughout the southeast,” Pouncey said.
Pouncey also said he thinks the origin of Common Core standards has been misinterpreted.
“The issue is there is a segment of the public that perceives Common Core as something that was created by Obama, when in reality, a common curriculum was requested by the Republican Governor’s Association,” Pouncey said. “They were the ones that initiated that process.
“I am hopeful that the House of Representatives and the members of the House will see through this charade and will hopefully allow Alabama to go forward with our current standards that I think are aligned with those in other states.”
District Math Coach at Trussville City Schools Monica Bramlett said reverting to previous standards would be a detriment to all students.
“Sometimes I think people that are against it don’t truly understand what it is,” Bramlett said. “There is so much value in the way we are currently teaching our students. The standards are rigorous.”
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh introduced the bill in response to state test scores that failed to improve under Common Core standards.
“It’s time to move on,” said Marsh, a Republican from Anniston. “We need to clear the slate. Just go ahead and get this out of the way. Let’s focus on new standards for the state that are going to solve these problems.”
However, Bramlett said low test scores are more of a reason to keep current standards.
“Instead of lowering the standards,” said Bramlett, “the government should be pouring more money into our education system so that districts across the state can afford the necessary support needed to be more successful in these standards.
“Our students today will no longer be competing for jobs locally, but nationally and globally as technology continues to grow. If we lower our standards, our children will not have the necessary skills to attain or keep jobs in such a competitive workforce.”
Pell City Schools Curriculum Specialist Kelly Seay said Common Core standards are research-based goals that show benchmarks of progress for each grade level, ensuring success in the next grade level. Seay said all states have similar benchmarks.
“The attempt was initiated to encourage all states to set their benchmarks (or standards) for each grade level at the same pace in an effort for students to not only achieve what research was showing they needed per content area, but also to level the playing field,” said Seay. “This would also assist students who moved during the school year from either being ahead or behind the students in their new school.
Seay said extensive research has shown the importance of high-order thinking skills.
“Our brains not only retain information longer when we understand the process used to determine the correct answer, but it also implants in us the ability to apply that thought process to other areas and situations we encounter in the future…,” Seay said. “Banning the use of all national standards will truly hurt our students academically.”
Seay said she hopes a compromise can be found before rushed decisions are made.
Director of Special Programs for Tuscaloosa City Schools Andrew Maxey has been openly opposing Marsh’s bill on Twitter. Maxey said he has voiced concerns and frustrations because repealing Common Core is not the answer for Alabama schools.
This bill to repeal Common Core would ALSO block students from taking AP classes or the ACT or earning CTE credentials & prohibit teachers from earning Board Certification.
Not your role legislators! Our children will be hurt by your political posturing.https://t.co/fH6ELsevTf
— Andrew Maxey, NBCT (@ezigbo_) March 20, 2019
Maxey said as an educator he is frustrated to see lawmakers with no experience in teaching making decisions for schools.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all of them (lawmakers), but teachers have a very difficult, very complex job but are generally paid and treated as if their job is simple, and when they advocate for the profession, they are treated like they are complaining,” said Maxey.
According to Maxey, the average amount of money spent per student each year and the poverty rate are things the education system can overcome with adequate funding.
Jefferson County educator Sabrina Wilks said she does not typically discuss politics or education policies, but she is concerned about the long-term effect of a repeal of Common Core standards.
“This is my honest opinion as a passionate educator with over 24 years of experience,” she said. “I am also a parent of three children ages 23, 17 and 16, all of which have attended public schools during the time that the Alabama College and Career Standards have been in place. I feel that they are all ready for college and career based on what their very capable educators have been planning their lessons according to these standards.”