State Senate considers abandoning Common Core Standards, and some local educators agree

From the Huron Daily Tribune

Sen. Phil Pavlov

Sen. Phil Pavlov

LANSING — The state Senate Education Committee heard testimony this week on a bill that would wipe away the Common Core Standards in Michigan, which in the long run, would cut back the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests.

Common Core Standards is an educational initiative that details what students in grades kindergarten through 12th should know in English language arts and math by a certain grade level.

Senate Bill 826 would ultimately, “terminate all plans, programs, activities, efforts and expenditures relating to the implementation of the educational initiative commonly referred to as the common core standards.”

Following a Senate Education Committee meeting earlier this week, Committee Chairman Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, issued a statement on Common Core and the need for Senate Bill 826.

“It’s absolutely wrong the way Common Core was imposed on the states,” Pavlov stated. “States and local school districts — not the federal government — should be in charge of education policy.”

If the bill were to pass, the state academic content standards would be changed to the same academic standards that were in effect in Massachusetts during the 2008-09 school year.

“The Massachusetts Standards have been proven effective for educating students,” Pavlov stated. “These standards use education practices familiar to parents, are internationally benchmarked and competitive, are developmentally appropriate and are not politically biased.”

From a local perspective, a few superintendents said last year’s testing was overkill for their students.

“The initial idea I think was a good one,” said Harbor Beach Superintendent Lawrence Kroswek. “… The idea was everybody should be teaching the same thing, the same way at the same time.”

“They were testing students for the wrong reasons,” he added. “It was about testing students to evaluate teachers. You test a student to use the results to help improve instruction.”

Last year, juniors at Harbor Beach High School were busy — 11 hours of testing busy.

“There were (elementary school) children that were just plain tired of testing and they just gave up,” Kroswek said.

Even though the students were pushed to the limits with tests, the district still did well and Kroswek credited the success to his staff.

“We’re fortunate to have a very strong staff,” he said. “Our teachers are very good at prioritizing at each grade level and very good at helping with the transition from grade level to grade level.”

Bad Axe and Caseville Superintendents, Greg Newland and Ken Ewald, respectively, both said the amount of testing done was an “overkill” for students.

“I wish that this would become more of a local controlled decision when it comes to assessment and curriculum,” Newland said. “We obviously need to have an assessment that the school can look at student data, such as, what are individual needs and system needs.”

Ewald’s outlook was much like Newland’s — a local look.

“Somehow we need to focus in on what we should be teaching our children in the Thumb and not a national outlook,” Ewald explained. “I definitely believe that right now, the testing is overkill. I think the testing we do is taking too much time away from their teaching time in the classroom.”

Ewald said the curriculum should expose children to subjects that surround them. For example, a district in Houston, Texas, and a district in Pigeon, Michigan, should have curriculums that reach more of its students’ needs versus a curriculum with a national perspective.

“A constant change in the statewide curriculum is not good for the education process,” he added.