Legislature fails to appeal Common Core
NOTE: This piece was published in Vol. 98, Issue 8 of The Booster Redux on March 31, 2016.
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After six years of debate surrounding the controversial Kansas Common Core Standards, also known as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards, a bill to repeal these standards has passed through the Kansas House Education Committee and failed by a vote of 44-78 in the Kansas State Legislature House.
The bill called for a new set of standards to be presented to the Legislature before implementation in 2017.
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The original Kansas Common Core Standards were created in 2010. The standards ensure students who graduate high school are prepared for education at two or four year colleges or to enter the workforce.
“The Kansas Common Core Standards are very important in preparing our kids to think critically, be able to learn how to read, understand the material that they read, be able to articulate [the material] and be able to listen critically,” assistant principal Rhonda White said. “The standards focus on the premise of being college and career ready.”
Furthermore, the standards seek to establish consistent education across state lines.
“Across the nation, we can agree that we want kids to learn to read and have educational skills that are similar from state to state,” superintendent Destry Brown said. “That’s what the standards are really set out to do.”
As states moved into the implementation of the Common Core Standards, the standards became controversial. This controversy led to the passing of the bill to repeal the standards.
Part of the decision of repealing Common Core is accredited to misconception.
“There is a lot of misinformation and a lot of inaccurate information about what Common Core is. It’s got people all stirred up and upset for no reason. It’s just a common curriculum,” Brown said.
Likewise, Brown believes the true purpose of Common Core is misunderstood.
"For some reason, Common Core has been made into something that it’s not,” Brown said. “Some people think that we’re trying to track kids inappropriately or that we’re doing something shady. That’s just not what’s happening at all. [Common Core] was really formed to just strengthen the curriculum and make it more consistent across state-lines.”
Senator Jacob LaTurner, a firm opponent of the Kansas Common Core Standards, would like the standards to be under local control rather than national control.
“We ought to trust local school boards to make decisions,” LaTurner said. “No one cares more about the education of students than the people in that student’s community. We ought to allow decisions to be made locally as much as possible. Common Core is the polar opposite of that. It’s a big standardized mandate.”
Part of LaTurner’s concerns stem from numerous parents opposing the standards.
“Parents tell me about their thoughts,” LaTurner said. “Parents from around my district tell me all the time that Common Core is having an adverse impact on their kids. That’s the big picture that we need to see.”
The repealing of these standards would have a financial effect on the school.
“The curriculum that we’ve purchased is aligned to Common Core Standards,” White said. “This bill would cause every school district in Kansas to go and purchase new curriculum, new textbooks and new material, which would be an insane cost for districts to try to put into place. Everything we’ve purchased has been designed to support the standards.”
Another factor contributing to the repealing of Common Core is its tie to the Barack Obama Administration.
“Anything that seems to be tied with President Obama’s administration seems to be very controversial and I don’t understand why, but it is,” Brown said. “A lot of people see the standards as coming from the Obama administration, though it really started with the Bush administration.”
Before being stripped out, part of the original proposed bill included the banning of Advanced Placement (AP) Classes.
According to the College Board, AP is a program that allows students to take courses in their high school in which they can earn college credit and/or qualify for more advanced classes in college.
“Studies show that students who take AP courses are much more prepared and much more likely to not need remedial courses in college and complete college within a six year time period,” White said. “There are a number of studies that have shown that students who do take AP courses are far more likely to finish college.”
Senior Reyna Valenzuela has taken and successfully completed a total of four AP classes during high school.
“AP classes really did help me get the starting courses out of the way,” Valenzuela said. “That way when I reach college I can jump ahead again and be in more advanced classes.”
AP Literature and Composition teacher Melissa Fite Johnson believes banning AP classes would harm students when it comes to applying to colleges.
“A lot of my AP students are applying to really big-time schools and it’s not just their GPA that gets taken into account,” Johnson said. “It’s the classes that they’re taking. If we don’t even offer those classes, then what a disadvantage that is to our students.”
Although AP classes are aligned to Kansas Common Core, the classes are paced faster than regular classes.
Valenzuela believes banning AP classes would have taken away students’ opportunities to challenge themselves in school.
“Banning AP classes would seriously take away the experience of having a college-level class in a high-school setting, that way those who are more advanced than others have the opportunity to prepare through that or so that anyone who wants to be ready for college can take those,” Valenzuela said.
Along with the challenge, rigor, and preparation for college they provide, AP classes also bring joy to both the teachers teaching them and the students taking them.
“In AP classes, we get to go very deeply into the literature,” Johnson said. “Our discussions are so rich and so interesting. I’m really grateful to it.”
“I absolutely love AP classes,” Valenzuela said. “Whenever I’m sick or whenever I’m not able to be in school I’m always like, ‘Dang it, I’m missing my AP literature class or my AP government class.’ I love being in those classes. The discussion and the work that we do is always a lot of fun.”