March 31, 2014

Common Core standards are a campaign issue in Ray-Pec

One candidate has made the new academic standards her main issue, but others don’t share the concern to the same degree.

Two incumbents and four newcomers are seeking three at-large seats on the Raymore-Peculiar Board of Education in Cass County.

And while one challenger has made opposition to the new Common Core State Standards her main issue, none of her opponents share that concern to the same degree.

“I see us slipping into a top-down approach, which weakens local control,” said Tonya Long. “I believe those closest to the kids in the community — parents and teachers — should be able to direct what and how the kids are learning. But it’s slowly being stripped away, and, as a parent, I’ve had enough of it.”

Long said she believes the adoption of Common Core standards violates both the Missouri Constitution and state statutes calling on the State Board of Education to create standards.

“They are to convene those work groups and come up with standards,” Long said.

Current school board President Kim York sees the standards issue differently.

“This is an issue that is hard to get everyone talking on the same page because it is highly politicized, and inflammatory language is being used by both sides,” York said.

“State statutes say the state sets standards, which has been true for 20 or 30 years, and that the district sets the curriculum,” York continued. “Many states have worked together to have national standards. People ask ‘Did the state have the right? Is it right to have a national standard?’ But that is a question best addressed to our state legislators.”

York said the Common Core standards will take effect next fall, and the school board intends to review its curriculum with that in mind over the summer.

“The prior Missouri standards were more detailed,” York said. “The Common Core standards are fewer and higher level. … It’s not a wholesale changeout of standards. It’s good to look to a more rigorous approach. That was something we were moving toward ourselves.”

York said she still has some questions about the Common Core, including the “age appropriateness” of certain standards. She wonders: “Have we pushed the rigor too far down — to kindergarten?”

Another incumbent, Ruth Johnson, said she has studied Common Core.

“But as school board members, there is not a lot we can do to change it,” Johnson said. “We have to do what comes to us from the state and federal levels. It’s something our state legislators would have to address … A lot of people are concerned about the data collection, but the Missouri MAP tests do the same data collecting as they will be doing with Common Core.”

Melinda Houdyshell said she is more interested in the district’s curriculum than the Common Core standards.

“The United States isn’t No. 1 in education anymore,” Houdyshell said. “We need to get kids better prepared.”

Houdyshell said she would like to see the district’s anti-bullying policy updated and child nutrition improved.

Mary DuBray says she is “open minded” about Common Core and has yet “to pick a side.” She said the biggest challenge facing the next school board will be financial.

“The funds are smaller and the demands are higher,” she said. “We have to make sure our money is spent wisely.”

Barbara Boucher, who is both a retired teacher and a former Ray-Pec school board member, said:

“I know teachers are going to make the best of any mandate that is sent down to them to achieve.”

Boucher said she would look at Ray-Pec’s $60 million annual budget “with the eyes of a teacher.”

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