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Topic: Common Core Grinds Along Amid Michigan Debate
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Common Core Grinds Along Amid Michigan Debate
Posted: Aug 30, 2013 12:01 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Tuesday, August 27, 2013. Volume 33, Issue
02, pp. 22-23. See
Common Core Grinds Along Amid Michigan Debate

Hearings, budget concerns seen raising local anxieties, but momentum continues

By Andrew Ujifusa

The high-volume argument in Michigan about whether to stick with the
common core appears to have done little to slow the standards'
momentum in most schools and districts, although at least a few
officials are taking a cautious approach.

Lawmakers this month are holding a series of hearings on the fate of
budget language enacted earlier this year freezing Michigan's
financial support for the Common Core State Standards and associated
assessments as of Oct. 1.

Backers of the common core worry, in particular, about the impact of
the freeze on assessments being designed in conjunction with the
standards. And opponents have taken heart from the hearings, which
have drawn national attention and included many hours of testimony
from both supporters and detractors.

In practice, however, work on common-core-aligned curricula and
professional development hasn't been greatly troubled, according to
many local K-12 officials.

"Almost every district in the state is moving ahead, from what I have
heard and the people I have talked to," said Michael Yocum, the
director of learning services for the Oakland Intermediate School
District, which in turn oversees 28 smaller, local districts and has
a total enrollment of about 192,300 full-time-equivalent students.

One district superintendent who is taking a relatively cautious path
is Carlton Jenkins, head of Saginaw Public Schools, which has about
7,700 students enrolled.

The curricula being used in his district this year are, in practice,
aligned to the common core, Mr. Jenkins said. But Saginaw schools
won't purchase any new curricula explicitly aligned to the standards,
spend additional money to train teachers specifically in the common
core, or pay to send school personnel to conferences about the
standards, until common core's standing in Michigan is resolved.

"I don't want to spend any money and find out that I can't use that,"
Mr. Jenkins said.

Next Steps

Despite heated opposition and calls in many states for the standards
to be dropped, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted
the common core. (One of those states, Minnesota, has adopted the
standards for English/language arts but not for math.)

Aside from Michigan, Indiana is also reviewing the common core
], having held similar legislative hearings about the standards this
summer. Indiana's state school board ultimately will be asked to
reconsider supporting the common core, which it adopted in 2010, the
year the standards were released under the aegis of groups
representing state governors and schools chiefs.

State school board President John C. Austin testified before state
lawmakers in favor of the common core.

The Michigan House of Representatives' fourth and final hearing on
the common core is slated for Aug. 28, and a joint House and Senate
hearing was scheduled for Aug. 27, after Education Week went to press.

After that, the legislature could pass a supplemental budget bill
addressing the spending freeze one way or another-or it could pass a
resolution expressing support or opposition to the common core, said
Don Wotruba, the deputy director of the Michigan Association of
School Boards, which has drafted a model resolution supporting the
standards for districts to
consider.[ ]

Because of the Michigan state board's continuing support for the
common core, Mr. Wotruba said, his members must proceed on the
assumption that the standards will remain in place, regardless of
political drama in Lansing, the state capital.

"Common core is going to be our standards," he said.

Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican, is a strong opponent of the standards.

Districts are also bolstered in that course of action by support for
the standards in the background by K-12
[ ] and state
business groups, he said.

Among 57 ISDs in Michigan, Mr. Yocum said, he has yet to find one
that has publicly acknowledged having schools that have suspended
work on the standards.

Mr. Yocum, the Oakland ISD official, indicated that the only piece of
testimony that really created a stir in schools came from the
nationally known education historian Diane Ravitch, who has been
critical of the common core. Her opposition carried weight, given her
"credibility among politicians as well as educators," Mr. Yocum said.

As he spoke, Mr. Yocum said in a telephone interview, 150 math
teachers were going through common-core training in the basement
below him.

'Just Inundated'

The Oakland ISD has developed a curriculum aligned to the standards,
Mr. Yocum said, and the interest from other districts around the
state in that work continues unabated: "We just get inundated with,
'When is this going to be up?' ... and 'I'm doing a training next
week-I've got to have this.' "

One district that is considering the pro-common-core resolution by
the school boards' association is the Plymouth-Canton system, which
has about 17,500 students enrolled. Michael Meissen, its
superintendent, said he anticipates that the school board will
ultimately adopt it.

The district has spent $500,000 on an English/language arts
curriculum explicitly aligned to the common core, he said, that will
be used for the first time in the 2013-14 school year.

Mr. Meissen, referring to the standards in his district, said that
"the train's on the tracks and it's left town."

"We see this as a way to ensure that our students are benchmarked
against some international standards. We see it as ensuring equity
across the district," he said.

But a teacher from the Plymouth-Canton district, Stephanie Keiles,
criticized the standards during her Aug. 14 testimony before state
lawmakers over its treatment of geometry, the Michigan Live news
website reported.

Playing It Safe

Melanie Kurdys, the co-founder of Stop Common Core in Michigan and a
former candidate for the Michigan state school board, said that while
it was also her understanding that there was no significant pause in
common-core implementation, it merely represented districts' choice
of the "least risky strategy."

Districts are making the bet that keeping the common core is still
less damaging than dropping it, she said, because of common-core
aligned assessments from the Smarter Balanced testing consortium that
Michigan is due to administer in the 2014-15 school year.

"It is important for us to really make a decision as quickly as we
can so they have a clear idea of which way to go," Ms. Kurdys said.

Michigan is a governing member of Smarter Balanced, and its
co-chairman, Joseph Martineau, is the executive director in the
Michigan education department's bureau of assessment and
accountability. If the Oct. 1 spending freeze remains in place, the
state will be barred from purchasing the assessment, Mr. Wotruba
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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