BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
FARMINGTON – With an eye to dispelling myths and calming fears, key players in the implementation of the Common Core standards presented their views at the Davis County Administration Building on Wednesday.
“We find that there is a lot of confusionКon a number of issues,” said Geoff Partain, vice chair of the Davis County Democratic Party, hosts ofКthe evening event. “We wanted to bring in non-partisan experts to speak and give factual information to the community.”
Those experts included representatives from the Utah State Office of Education, Davis School District, the Davis Region 3 PTA and a school counselor representing the American Federation of Teachers.
The small audience at the community forumКincluded parents,Кteachers, grandparents, a student and other stakeholders with a wide range ofКopinions and concerns.
A common misconception, accordingКto Sydney Dixon, director of teaching and learningКwith the Utah State Office of Education, is that the new learning standardКis something that came from the federal government, leaving people with “a sense of federal intrusion.”
In fact, it was two state groups РКthe National Governors’ Organization and the organization of Chief State School Officers Р that saw the need for consistent standards between the states and started work on the core.
The resulting program is now being implemented by 45 states, including Utah.
Prior to its adoption, many states had different standards, and some didn’t have any at all, she said. Utah had standards, but the new standards, according to a brochure produced by USOE, “address the problem of low expectations” and “raise the bar on student performance in language arts and math, making sure all Utah students are globally competitive.”
“It’s not enough to know things Р you need to do things, to be a good citizen and to contribute back to society,” she said.
Several in the audience, self-proclaimedКArmy or Air Force “brats,”Кshared the difficulty of changingКschools frequently and finding different standards at eachКschool.
“This is a flat world and a mobile society,” said Dixon. “With a common set of standards, children are not penalized for moving but are assessed and compared appropriately.”
Dixon assured the audience thatК“we’re in control” of assessments as a stateКand that the new standards have been designed to make students “college and career ready.”
More than that, Patty Norman, curriculum director at Davis School District, said the district is working to make kids “college, career, community and opportunity ready.”
“We take that job very seriously,” she said. “Everyone is an individual and will take a different path, but we need them to be complex problem solvers and critical thinkers.”
If they can Google it, she said, they don’t value it.
It is easy to come up with facts now, but it is more important to understand what those facts mean in the big picture and what matters globally.
Students no longer simply open a text book, read the material and come up with an answer.
“We expect more of our kids,” she said. “They need to be locally, nationally and globally connected, to inquire and to argue complex texts.”
Change is hard, Norman admitted, and training is on-going as teachers better learn how to teach in the new way.
“We’re on the right path and doing what’s the best of the best (practices,)” she said. “We’re focusing where we should be.”
Even though new methods are being taught and old tests are still being used to assess student understanding, data has shown students are doing as well or slightly better with the new methods. Usually a dip would occur with new texts, she said, but the problem solving methods put kids on the right path.
Rachel Peterson, director of the Region 3 PTA in Davis County emphasized the importance of supportive parents and communication with teachers.
Karen Russell, a counselor at North Layton Junior High representing the American Federation of Teachers, said it is possible to make change work.
“They’re raising the standards, raising the quality of education students are getting. It makes sense because it’s the way we do things in real life, when you know why it’s important and not just how to do it.
“No matter where they go to college or what career they choose, they’re going to be prepared,” said Russell. “The education (they get) here in Utah is as quality an education as you can get in the United States.”