Editorial Note: I would like to thank Chuck Vail for taking time to attend and report on the July 15th Regular Meeting of the Octorara Area School Board of Directors. Unfortunately, I was not able the attend. The Common Core presentation had not be announced at the work session meeting last week, and only found out about it being an agenda item from the post on the school’s website Friday. If you missed the meeting (few attended) and have questions and concerns, or want to know where board members stand and if they are engaged in any lobbying efforts, you can contact them by phone or email. The school’s website provides contact information.
by Chuck Vail
Most of the meeting time was devoted to a very interesting PowerPoint presentation offered by Board member Elena Wilson. The title of the presentation was ‘PA Common Core Standards: What Are They and How Will They Impact Education at OASD?’ The presentation began with a brief, bullet-pointed recap of the evolution of academic standards in Pennsylvania over the past 20 years. Then the term ‘Common Core’ was defined:
- Multi-state effort that began in 2004;
- Became a formal effort coordinated by the NGA and CCSSO (including the PA Secretary of Education);
- Standards developed in collaboration with state officials, teachers, parents across the country to develop model standards in math and English for states to consider using;
- Clear and consistent standards for all states to consider when developing state-specific standards for math and English;
- Evidence-based rigorous content;
- Standards aligned with college and career readiness.
After setting the table, so to speak, Ms. Wilson’s PowerPoint presentation then went on to discuss the intellectual and educational underpinnings of Common Core, which I think can fairly be described as saying:
- If this country is going to have standardized tests for students, then more standardized curricula and teaching methods are desirable; and
- Despite considerable evolution and reform of America’s educational system in recent decades the fact remains that many of our students still under-perform students in other countries, and that since our students will more and more be competing against those other countries’ students in an increasingly interconnected and competitive world, it behooves us to see what we can learn elsewhere and to adopt those curricula changes and teaching methods that seem to produce students better prepared to compete in a global market.
Next, using more bullet points, charts, and specific examples, Ms. Wilson’s presentation showed where we are, where we need to get to, and the nature of some of the changes that will be forthcoming in the way OASD educates our students. The gist of it is that the bar will be raised. There will be more emphasis on developing critical thinking skills, so that rather than the traditional model of a teacher leading students towards ‘the answer,’ students will be challenged more to ferret-out the answer for themselves. (Author’s note: I hope I got the essence of this right.)
It was noted that as Common Core changes are phased-in some decline in achievement/assessment scores may occur, but that the decline should not be great and should certainly be temporary. This makes sense. If the bar is going to be raised, then students will need a period of adjustment to adapt to the new standards. They will need to learn how to think differently, how to achieve at a higher level.
As noted, Ms.Wilson’s presentation was very interesting, even intriguing, compelling, and about as thorough as such a presentation can be without taking too much time in a public forum. This was, I believe, the first time anyone else in the room had seen the presentation, and as noted it was offered for consideration by the Board. Presumably some changes, even if just a few tweaks, will be made. One hopes that when the presentation is finalized it will be made available on the OASD website, complete with narration, since a PowerPoint presentation without somebody actually presenting it is of only limited use.
Meantime, for readers who want to learn more about Pennsylvania’s actions with regard to Common Core, go HERE for a Fact Sheet.
You can also check out this short, humorous YouTube video which was included as part of Ms. Wilson’s presentation:
But also, if you go to the YouTube homepage, and search for ‘PA Common Core,’ you’ll find a wealth of informative videos that discuss the matter at great length and from all perspectives.
The rest of the July 15 meeting went pretty much according to the agenda. The Board approved for payment bills for the 2012-2013 fiscal year (an itemized list of bills was provided to attendees as a handout). With one abstention, all members present voted to approve the new Transportation Contract with Althouse Transportation, Inc. as negotiated. And with one exception all other action items on the agenda were approved; that one exception being the withholding of approval on the i-Pad users manual until some further refinements were made.
- “Common Core Aligned” What Does That Really Mean? (snapreading.wordpress.com)
- Gone In 30 Minutes: The June 17th Board Meeting (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- What Education Officials Had To Say In Common Core Report (indianapublicmedia.org)
- Spin It Like Duncan: US Secretary of Education to News Editors (educationviews.org)
- Conservatives, do your homework (ateachertransformed.com)