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Weigh In: What was your biggest surprise (or fear) as you rolled out the Common Core?

The continuing controversy over adoption, federal intervention, and infrastructure.

Growing Controversy
Gene Kirchner. "My biggest surprise has to do with the controversy two years after we adopted the Common Core," says Kirchner, superintendent at Fort Thomas Independent Schools in Kentucky.

"Suddenly, there seems to be a wave of political reaction across the country. Some of that is creeping back into Kentucky, with people questioning the standards—this whole notion of the loss of local control or maybe even states' rights versus a national curriculum that's pushed down to the local school districts. We're even starting to get questions about that within our own district from parents whose children have been taught based on those standards for the past two years and have been assessed on those standards.

"My biggest fear about the first set of assessments is really the same fear that I have about overreliance on standardized testing in general and high-stakes accountability that's tied to standardized testing.

"The danger with national assessments might be that the accountability that comes with it narrows our focus. You may see school districts that limit their scope to just the core areas and exclude arts and practical living, which in many cases might be the thing that keeps students in school. We could lose the opportunity to help students find their niche, be creative, develop confidence in an area and develop passion for those things they are drawn to."

Finding Funds
Wanda Cook-Robinson. "One of the biggest surprises was that the standards provide authentic rigor and compel us to do what we used to call ‘cross-curricular instructional collaboration,' " says Cook-Robinson, superintendent at Southfield Public School District in Michigan.

"The Core will enable us to have perimeters of academic content, but we can have some variety in how we do it and how we bring it to a real-world context. I was surprised that the standards have that flexibility.

"My fear is that we won't have enough technology infrastructure to support [the testing]. The cost is going to be enormous. In Michigan, our school districts are in dire straits. We are losing our governor, our legislator is reducing our budget daily. How are we going to be able to keep up?

"At the last board meeting, we had a request that the county regional system that supports us take over our technology department. There are several of us in Oakland County doing this so that we can have some regional power in terms of technology as well as cost effectiveness. When the [regional system] came in to complete our wireless infrastructure, we saved $100,000. I think the answer is in collaboration between districts.

"I'm excited about the Core. I think it's the right direction to go. We just have to work out all of these details."

Long View Needed
Doug Hayter. "We've had quite a discussion in this part of the country about the fact that there is federal involvement. We are concerned about what type of information the federal government is gathering about our children and families within schools versus the academic side of Common Core and how that's going to help educate students," says Hayter, superintendent at Branson Public Schools in Missouri.

"There's been discussion about what exactly are the science standards, specifically as they relate to creationism versus evolution. It's a healthy debate.

"As I think about rural America, specifically rural Missouri, and our ability from the technical side-from bandwidth to hardware to software-there are going to be some difficulties being fully prepared for all of the online assessment pieces.

"Anytime you change something, there is going to be an adjustment period. As we make this shift to Smarter Balanced and Common Core, we need to be patient and let things settle.

"Look longitudinal instead of quickly reacting. Let's let the system work and see what happens."
 
Stepping Up, Setting Up
Michael Cowan. "I was pleasantly surprised that once our 3,000 teachers started digging into the standards, they were overwhelmingly supportive and believe the standards are good for students and our nation," says Cowan, superintendent at Mesa Public Schools in Arizona.

"The other very pleasant surprise is that our 64,000 students are doing an incredible job of meeting those standards. You give them the challenge, they step up to the challenge.

"My biggest fear as the assessments start coming is that we're not going to have the technology to enable the assessments to be administered to large populations in a timely manner. The logistics of massive testing administration could undermine what in concept should be a better assessment for our students and for student learning.

"We are catching up in building our infrastructure. Our community passed a $230 million bond in the last election. A good portion of that is to support technology integration in our classrooms. We're marrying professional development with technology to enhance teachers' abilities to teach the Common Core. It's a several-year project, starting with infrastructure and innovation pilots across the district, then moving out to scale."   


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