Fight continues over Kansas math, English standards

Mar 8, 2013 by

Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays, a former social studies teacher, urged her fellow legislators not to reject Kansas’ mathematics and English standards Wednesday.

The House Education Committee is considering a bill that would force the Kansas State Board of Education to scrap its current math and English standards. The standards at issue are called the Common Core and have been adopted by most states, effectively creating national guidelines in math and English. Kansas adopted them in 2010.

At a hearing on the Common Core, Boldra, who taught social studies for 35 years and now teaches at Fort Hays State University, said the standards were a step forward for Kansas schools. She rejected accusations that the Common Core, led by a consortium of states, was imposed on Kansas by the federal government.

Critics of the Common Core say the federal government pressured or enticed states to adopt it by tying it to grants and waivers of federal law. Last month, the committee heard testimony from a group of opponents to the Common Core, including Robert Scott, a former Texas commissioner of education.

Boldra participated in revising the state’s social studies standards in 2005 and 2012. She said the most recent standards that she helped work on, which haven’t been adopted yet, incorporate Common Core concepts into social studies. The Kansas State Board of Education will vote on those standards this year.

Rep. John Bradford, R-Lansing, was sharply critical of the Common Core, asking whether it had been tested in a pilot program.

“If it’s a great program, why aren’t all 50 states jumping in head first?” Bradford said.

But Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, asked why opponents were so upset at the idea of nationwide standards, adding that consistency in math and English guidelines among states would be helpful for students who move.

“If there’s a federal fingerprint on this, why is that necessarily a bad thing?” Rooker asked.

Rep. Willie Dove, R-Bonner Springs, disagreed.

“If it comes from the federal government, then I have reservations, because everything that comes from the federal government has a cost to it,” he said. “It costs too much of that thing called freedom.”

Rep. Ron Highland, R-Wamego, said the Legislature had a right to examine the state board’s decision to adopt the Common Core.

“Over 50 percent of our budget goes to schooling,” Highland said. “We have a right to get involved in what goes on in the educational process.”

In an interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal last month, Kansas State Board of Education Chairwoman Jana Shaver defended the Common Core as rigorous and said adopting standards was the state board’s prerogative.

Under Article VI of the Kansas Constitution, the state board oversees public schools. The board reviews and approves standards for various subjects on a seven-year cycle.

Though Boldra opposes the bill to drop the Common Core, she said after the meeting that she didn’t think the bill infringed on the state board’s authority.

The Kansas State Department of Education has said that if the bill passes, it will take two years to develop new standards and that will come with additional costs.

via Fight continues over Kansas math, English standards |

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