Marietta schools on board with Common Core
by Lindsay Field
May 10, 2013 12:00 AM | 4591 views | 9 9 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Irene Berens
Irene Berens
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While concerns about the Common Core State Standards led the Cobb School Board to turn down a multi-million dollar purchase of math materials last month, Marietta City Schools is already implementing the new standards and has purchased resources.

Board Chair Randy Weiner said the city school district has been rolling out implementation of the nationwide education standards since 2011. It also purchased “On Core” math books for elementary school teachers and students and non-fiction texts for fifth- and sixth-graders.

“Our administrators were trained back in May 2011,” he said. “Teachers also received professional development in 2011. Curriculum writing and unit assessments were written in summer 2012, and we fully implemented (K-12) Common Core in the classroom beginning August 2012.”

Cobb County Schools began teaching Common Core math in classrooms last fall.

The city school board approved the addition of three- and-a-half new literacy specialists last month to work with kindergarten through third grade teachers on implementing Common Core lessons, and the district sends out two newsletters a month, one for teachers and one for parents, with more information on Common Core.

“I think Common Core is a move in the right direction,” Weiner said. “It’s important to note that Common Core is a set of standards and does not dictate curriculum and teaching methods.”

Opponents in Cobb have said that requiring students to know certain things for a nationwide standardized test will eventually lead to a national curriculum as local school systems are forced into more “teaching to the test.”

But a majority of Weiner’s board agrees with him that Common Core is an upgrade and not something to be feared or loathed.

Jill Mutimer, who represents Ward 4, said Common Core aligns well with the Georgia Performance Standards, which she thinks were a “definite increase in rigor” from previous standards.

“Also, it allows for more ease of transfer of students between systems and states, to ensure consistent standards,” she said.

Mutimer said she doesn’t believe some of the accusations that it “dumbs down” lessons.

“There are aspects that could be beefed up, like providing background context to reading samples, but individual systems have the latitude to adjust if necessary,” she said. “These standards are rigorous in general.”

She also addressed the question of losing local control, as brought up by many opponents of Common Core during an April Cobb School Board meeting. They argued that the new standards allow the federal government to control what is taught in their local schools.

“I happen to agree with it, after all, Marietta City Schools is a charter system,” she said. “We truly value local control at the lowest level. However, I did not hear much of this talk last fall when the same politicians were endorsing the Charter School Amendment, which created another state bureaucracy that bypassed local control.”

More or less rigorous?

Another major concern among Cobb’s school board and some parents is that Common Core standards are not as rigorous as they should be and that they will lead to a “one size fits all” curriculum that “dumbs down” the classroom.

Marietta’s Ward 2 board member Tony Fasola said he isn’t concerned about the new standards because it follows suit with Marietta City’s goal to prepare students as best they can for college or work after graduating from high school.

“It is a set of standards that, in my mind, has increased the rigor of the curriculum that we offer,” he said. “The enhanced rigor will ultimately benefit our students.”

Irene Berens, who represents Ward 7, said because educators have been working on this new curriculum for so long, they should continue to honor their hard work and help with the implementation, while keeping an open mind.

“The train has left the station, and putting up a huge roadblock on the track will only cause a train wreck at this point,” she said about opponents of Common Core. “Is this the right direction for MCS students? It will be if we implement with the same commitment and high standards that we demand for all of our students and our teachers. We continue to strive to prepare our students for life success.”

The newest board member, Ward 1’s Brett Bittner, was not serving on the board when the standards were adopted, so he said it was difficult for him to say whether it’s a move in the right direction for Marietta until he sees “real world results.”

He did say that he commends Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck and her senior staff for their efforts in keeping abreast of the latest developments with Common Core, including the lagging releases from the Georgia Department of Education.

Still some concerns

in Marietta

The board’s overall satisfaction with the standards doesn’t mean there aren’t a few concerns.

Fasola said he’s specifically worried about costs involving the new assessments, because they will be mandated by the state, but politicians have continued to cut budgets for the past several years.

Weiner agreed, adding that he anticipates seeing a slight dip in test scores initially, as they saw with the implementation of the Georgia Performance Standards.

“As with a change in any new material, there will be a learning curve with both teachers and students the first year,” he said.

Weiner said he also has read stories about people who worry about the standards being based on the new test for Common Core — and, therefore, “teaching to the test.” But he doesn’t see that problem.

“Students must be able to delineate the information given, in order to perform well,” he said. “Teachers do not know which standards will be emphasized more heavily from year to year, so all standards should be covered leading up to the PARCC assessment.”

Mutimer said she is concerned about the pending science and social studies standards for Common Core and hopes that they won’t be “slanted” to one political view.

“However, the English/language arts and math standards that have been rolled out are good in general, she said.

Berens questioned the move toward more non-fiction books being required.

“There should be a happy medium,” she said.

Bittner said he’s worried that Common Core focuses on “uniformity by aiming for the middle,” when he believes schools should be focusing on individualized education models to allow students to grow and learn.

Comments
(9)
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Marietta opinion
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May 10, 2013
I agree with the Board Member’s statement that Common Core is an upgrade and is a move in the right direction for the MCS children. Common Core standards help drive consistency involving the transfer of students between systems and states.

It appears that the Marietta City School’s Superintendent is trying to justify her recommendation of hiring three and a half Literacy Specialists/Coaches to help the inexperience Executive Director of Curriculum Instructions. Hiring highly- compensated Literacy Specialists/Coaches, which previously failed for MCS in the past, is not the answer to help drive the Common Core Standards. Our system already employs a Director of Elementary Curriculum, Director of Middle School and High School Curriculum, one Literacy Coach and a Math Coach. Do we really need these positions for such a small school system with only 8400 students? Or is this just another strategy to divert the attention of the real issue of having a person leading the Office of Curriculum and Instruction that is inexperienced? Maybe the answer is a Central Office reorganization and consider hiring the High School Principal to lead the Office of Curriculum.

Holly Fouts
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May 10, 2013
This board always seems very reasonable and educated. Not filled with emotion and spin. I like it!
Just Wait
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May 10, 2013
So either the Marietta school board are a bunch of idiots and the Cobb school board are brilliant or the Cobb school board are a bunch of paranoid pandering politicians and the Marietta school board are...not.
Ok soooooo
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May 10, 2013
The train has left the station.. The enhanced rigor will ultimately benefit our students... one size fits all... dumbs down... teaching to the test...

It's obvious based on our board members' inane platitudes in this story that none of them understand anything about Common Core books versus Texas books, or perhaps understand much of anything at all. Platitudes are not bases for decision making.

I particularly enjoyed this: "As with a change in any new material, there will be a learning curve with both teachers and students the first year."

Uhhh. Shouldn't the materials be new to students every year?? Shouldn't students have 12 years of "a learning curve?"

Mutimer said she is concerned about the pending science and social studies standards for Common Core and hopes that they won’t be “slanted” to one political view.

What kind of dang fool worries about the "political slant" of science and social studies books? Only here in the South... No wonder we are always last.

Where do we find these people?
anonymous
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May 10, 2013
Thank heaven the Marietta Board has some sense. Happy to see, once again, the differences between the Marietta and the Cobb Co School Board, the latter of which appears enthralled by right-wing nuts.
CC is good for kids
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May 10, 2013
I am a CCSD teacher and we rolled out CC this year. We have created our own materials and assessments because CCSD did not give us anything to utilize. Common Core is a step in the right direction. It makes children explain how and why they came to answer the question and explain their reasoning. It is rigorous. The problem is the state and county are to quick to give up on everything. Right when we get into the swing of things, they change everything. Give CC a chance! Our kids are doing a great job!
To Randy
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May 10, 2013
Sorry, pal - standards drive curriculum.

Did you know that the responsibility for scoring subsequent end-of-course constructed-response items has been shifted from the state education department to local districts? Were you there when the state superintendent stated that the budget for the assessment piece is currently $25M and the estimated cost is at over $53M - so, if the responsibility has shifted from the state DOE to local districts, how will the MCS pay for it? Gonna lay off teachers, increase taxes, increase class sizes? You are living in the very well constructed land of "feed me some more of that federal standards" drivel that is going to come back to haunt you.
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