Candidates running for the District 200 Board of Education in the April election answered audience questions regarding the district's finances, the Jefferson Early Childhood Center referendum and the common core standards at the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters candidate forum Thursday night.
District 200 began implementing the curriculum to meet common core standards for math in the fall and will implement the language arts and reading components in 2014. To prepare for the more demanding standards, the district earlier this year implemented professional learning communities (PLCs) to give high school teachers time to meet to discuss and decide on best instructional practices in the classroom based on students' needs. The common core curriculum is mandated for school districts across Illinois and the country.
Candidates responded to the following question:
"What is your knowledge of the common core and how will it benefit the students?"
"I'm just starting to look at common core. I don’t know if it will benefit students or not. I know that we used to teach things from the basics… A lot of what we seem to be doing now is teaching for the tests so they (students) can ace the tests and forget it tomorrow.
"My issue with common core is that it’s a nationwide thing, and while I agree students are going to have to know some common information and we’re going to have to test them to know how they're doing, I question who is setting the standards and how?
District 200 has had better results than other districts with its own curriculum, Shaw said.
"I worry that when we try to become just like everybody else, we’ll become just like everybody else."
"I’m excited about it… It’s going to help all schools across the country have a common language."
She said professional learning communities are a great way for teachers to learn from each other and to be on the same page.
"Our high schools are pretty much up to date with common core. What also is coming from it is we’re having our professional learning communities (PLCs)... Common core is going to be helpful for all our kids and raise the expectations and levels of learning."
"(Common core) It’s a mandated delivery program of education and it’s nationwide—and we have to meet the challenge. The challenge we’re going to face is training our teachers how to do it… We have to make sure we get the cooperation of the teachers...
"I’m a little concerned we’ll have the follow-through and depth of technology to stay competitive as well, because we are deficient in that area."
"My fifth grader piloted common core math this fall and it was significantly different than the math my other three daughters performed, it was much more rigorous… Common core—it’s going to be a good thing. It provides a progression through the grades that is going to prepare the kids better for college... (It's a) more uniform approach and it’s also performance based—compared to rogue memorization, we’ll actually be asking the kids to demonstrate the skills.
Communication between teachers and parents will be "critical," he said.
"...I don’t believe a shift to common core will make students better learners master curriculum or achieve higher test scores... Under common core we do lose some local control of education...
"I believe we need to go back to the basics in reading writing and math, and I think we need to get better instruction so kids can spend more time learning and less time with these changes in curriculum."
"It’s (common core) a very consistent, clear understanding—and delivery—of standards every student should have by the time they reach and graduate from high school... We began piloting this program last year—and implementation next year will be for math... And in 2014 we’ll have (the) reading and language arts curriculum as well."
It is "no easy task," he said, but teachers and administrators are, "Very, very prepared," to address the issue right now.
"Students are going to be expected to learn at a much higher level and it’s going to be a great thing for our students and I think you’ll see a tremendous impact in the student population."
"It’s just one part of big changes going on in the classroom—all school districts are dealing with this right now... I think it’s critical we support our teachers in the process and let them be the experts."
Another challenge, he said, will be teacher evaluations in the future.
"It’s not something we can decide whether we like or not. It’s something we have to respond to and I think we have the right people in our schools and in our administration."
"It’s an interesting idea… In general I support it, but with a few reservations. There is potentially a dark side to it, that is: We become an education system that is preoccupied with measurement and a lot of discrete things. The thing I think is best and coolest about education is the unstructured pieces of it."
Fogerty alluded to the "Shark Tank" business training program for eighth graders at Hubble Middle School—and said common core will depend on how it's implemented, "Provided we don’t let go of things in education that keep us human."
"It’s hard to be internationally competitive on individual curriculum that goes from district to district or from state to state… When this consortium of state educators was formed—they are the ones that came up with common core… Our new curriculum in common core in math exceeds the common core curriculum—so to say it (common core) takes away local control is incorrect.
"We don’t teach to tests. We teach to standards… if you master the information you can do well on a test."
Read More About the District 200 Race:
There are nine candidates running for four seats on the Board of Education. Joann Coghill, Barbara Intihar and Ken Knicker are the incumbent candidates. The fourth seat up for election currently belongs to Andy Johnson, who is not seeking re-election in 2013.
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