Joco Opinion

December 3, 2013

Move ahead on Common Core standards

The Kansas Board of Education was right to join with other states in establishing benchmarks that expect the best from all students. The task now is to keep moving forward and make the Common Core program work.

Students, parents and teachers in the Blue Valley School District have given mostly positive reviews to the new Common Core curriculum, saying it brings a welcome challenge.

That report, delivered by Superintendent Tom Trigg during a recent forum in Overland Park, is encouraging, if expected, news. As one of Kansas’ wealthier, high-achieving districts, Blue Valley would be expected to lead the way in phasing in the new standards.

The forum, sponsored by the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, presented a mostly positive view of the Common Core program, which was conceived by the nation’s governors as a way to raise standards and make schools and students more competitive in a high-tech economy. Many business groups accurately see it as a road to the educated workforce Kansas will need in the future.

But there will be plenty of challenges to making the standards work throughout the state. Trigg mentioned one. The cost of assessment tests will be higher with the Common Core than the tests currently used by schools, he said.

Kansas education officials agree the assessments will cost more than they have, but less than the average nationwide. School districts will need more computer capabilities for the tests. And because the assessments are heavy on writing skills and problem-solving, they take more work to score, others at the panel said.

The one challenge educators shouldn’t have to deal with is interference from the Kansas Legislature, where some lawmakers are wrongly intent on derailing the implementation of the Common Core curriculum. As Trigg and others at the forum pointed out, the standards don’t usurp local control. Individual districts will still make decisions about teaching styles and lesson plans. And states have flexibility to modify the universal curriculum.

The Kansas Board of Education was right to join with other states in establishing benchmarks that expect the best from all students. The task now is to keep moving forward and make the program work.

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