The Common Core State Standards drew significant support and some sharp criticism, including from a member of the Barrington School Committee, at the board’s meeting Thursday night, Dec. 5.
The criticism followed a supportive presentation on the Common Core and the new assessment test, PARCC, replacing the NECAP test, by Paula Dillon, director of curriculum and instruction for Barrington.
School Committee member Scott Fuller, a secondary school principal in Cumberland, triggered the criticism by voicing “personal concerns” after doing his own research on the Common Core. He said his biggest concern is that the new standards were developed without local input and put in place with little or no public comment.
“There were no field tests, there is no evidence, nobody knows if it will work," Fuller said. "We’re a nation of guinea pigs."
"It has not been tried first on students, a school, a district or a state,” Fuller said, even though he knows that Barrington is well into implementing the Common Core.
“I think it is fundamentally flawed by the process,” said Fuller, which he described as “top-down.”
About half a dozen parents echoed Fuller's comments and stated their own concerns, primarily that the Common Core simply has not been proven and might be hurting Barrington students.
Amy Seigel, one of the parents, said she moved to Barrington for the schools as many other parents have. Barrington students have done quite well, she said. Now they will put to the test of new standards and a new curriculum
The other four School Committee members, including Patrick Guida, a member of the Rhode Island Board of Education, said they have faith in Common Core – a set of standards that determine what students should know at the end of each academic year, according to Dillon .
“The standards are guides,” she said. “It is not the curriculum.”
“Do you want the status quo?” Guida asked in responding to one of the parents. “We need revolutionary change.”
“We can’t afford to stay stagnant,” said new school board vice chair Paula Dominguez.
Guida said a group of distinguished educators with support from some this country’s top corporate leaders developed these new standards, which have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia.
"There is overwhelming support of why we should be doing this," he said.
Guida said that each state, including Rhode Island, made the determination to adopt the Common Core. It is not mandated by the federal government. Among the states that have adopted Common Core is Massachusetts, often cited as the state with the highest educational standards and success in the country.
“Massachusetts adopted the Common Core even with its own high standards,” he said. “They thought the Common Core was better.”
Dillon stressed several times that the Common Core is a group of standards, not a curriculum. Teachers will be teaching to meet those standards in ways they feel work best, she said.
Dillon also announced that the RI Department of Education will make a presentation on the Common Core in Barrington on Jan. 28. It will start at 7 pm at the high school as a Barrington Education Foundation program.