(Sept 12) State Board of Education to vote on revised set of Academic Standards

By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on September 11, 2013 at 6:24 PM

Despite a public outcry about it moving education in a wrong direction, the State Board of Education stands ready on Thursday to vote on a set of grade-level learning goals that come with the implementation of Pennsylvania’s first-ever state graduation-testing requirement.

The learning goals, called Pennsylvania Core Standards, spell out what students should be able to do at the end of each grade in math and language arts.

Along with them, the proposed rules would require students, starting with the Class of 2017, to demonstrate their proficiency in Algebra I, Biology I and language arts on a Keystone Exam, or one of the other state-approved alternative assessments, to graduate.

It’s a move that the board sees as necessary to make high school diplomas more meaningful and to help standardize what students are being taught in schools, among a bevy of other reasons.

But its critics, including seven people who addressed the board at Wednesday’s meeting, say it will be too costly. It’s unproven. It will lead to loss of local control over education. And it will increased drop-out rates.

“What can we do as parents, taxpayers, to stop the implementation of this horrible program?” said Anastasia Przbylski of Freedom Works, a national grassroots organization battling against the adoption of Common Core standards that she said has 90,000 members in Pennsylvania.

The State Board adopted the Common Core standards in 2010 and put school districts on notice to start aligning their curriculum to them. Those standards were advanced by the National Governors Association and state education officers as necessary to ensure students are college and career ready when they leave high school.

But as more and more states began adopting them and federal dollars got attached to states having college- and career-ready standards, an outcry erupted from opposite ends of the political spectrum over what was perceived as a radical move toward one-size-fits-all instruction coming out of Washington, D.C. that steals away local control of the curriculum and lowers the bar in some areas.

Board Chairman Larry Wittig responded to Przbylski, saying that the board’s vote, in essence, is to move away from the set of standards the State Board adopted in 2010 and toward ones that are unique to Pennsylvania.

Wittig noted after the meeting that the proposed standards, while similar to the Common Core standards, were developed by Pennsylvania educators and more rigorous in some instances than Common Core.

To help differentiate the proposed standards from the ones the State Board adopted previously, the State Board has changed the name to Pennsylvania Core Standards.

Still, some see little difference between the two sets of standards. They also disagree with implementing a graduation test.

Joan Duvall-Flynn, education committee chair for the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches, called that type of high-stakes test as cruel and unusual punishment. She challenged the board to put themselves in the shoes of the 60 to 65 percent of children living with emotional and psychological trauma which impedes their learning.

“I am 17. I flunk a test. My future ends. Think about that. Think about the adversity of my life because of a test score,” she said. “Think about that when we all know scientifically it is unsupported that any test score predicts human potential.”

Find the full article, here: State Board of Education set to vote on revised set of Common Core standards Jan Murphy, The Patriot-News, 9/11/13

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