Education

Teachers, parents, others suggest changes in Kentucky's Core Academic Standards

The national Common Core Standards are the basis for Kentucky's standards on what students should know in kindergarten through 12th grade. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
The national Common Core Standards are the basis for Kentucky's standards on what students should know in kindergarten through 12th grade. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Should kindergarten students be able to "name the author and illustrator of a text and define the role of each in presenting the ideas or information in a text?"

One teacher didn't think so. She took Kentucky Department of Education officials up on the offer to suggest changes to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.

"Experience says that even older kindergarteners struggle to remember the names of authors/illustrators," the teacher said.

The national Common Core Standards are the basis for Kentucky's standards on what students should know in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Academic standards define what Kentucky students are expected to learn at each grade level in order to graduate ready for college and careers. How the standards are taught — the methods and materials used — are decided by local schools.

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Teachers, parents and others who took the challenge issued in August 2014 by former Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday thought only 12 percent of the more than 1,300 standards should be revised.

Karen Kidwell, director of the education department's division of program standards, told members of the Kentucky Board of Education at an Oct. 6 meeting that Kentuckians who responded to the survey overwhelmingly supported the state's current academic standards in English/language arts and math. Recommendations for changes were made for only 20 or fewer standards in each category.

But the suggestions that were made are under consideration and some changes are anticipated, state education officials told the board.

The results from the Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge were posted on the Kentucky Department of Education website. The survey resulted in 4,000 comments, which a group of educators is considering while compiling proposed changes that will be given to the state board in late winter or early spring.

In the results, people are identified by group — whether they are a teacher or parent, for example — but not by name.

Board chairman Roger Marcum suggested that the results of the challenge be shared with lawmakers and with gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin and Jack Conway. New Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said he would share the results.

In one suggested change, a teacher took issue with a standard for kindergarten students that says "with prompting and support," students should be able to "ask and answer questions about key details in a text."

"We've made school more rigorous with no regard for developmental appropriateness," the teacher said.

A teacher questioned a standard that required a sixth grader to "demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting."

The teacher said in their school district, keyboarding was not being "actively taught."

"Students are left to their own devices to come up with a proficient way to type in their writing...with varying methods and success rates," the teacher said.

A math standard that requires second graders to "fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction" raised the ire of a parent.

"This method is fussy and asinine," the parent wrote.

Most suggestions called for the grade level on a standard to be changed. Other suggestions asked for a rewrite of a standard.

Meanwhile, a new report on the standards from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence said teachers are using historical texts, literature and journal articles to engage students in history and science while strengthening reading and comprehension skills.

The report called "Expanding Literacy: Reading, Writing Emphasized Beyond English Class" said Kentucky's new English, math and science standards support each other by connecting knowledge and skills across subjects; providing a deeper learning experience. As a result, students are more engaged, the report said.

"One of the hallmarks of the new standards is this idea of cross-content teaching and learning — where students benefit from English, math, science, social studies and the arts being taught interchangeably across their classes," said Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee said in a statement.

"Students today are spending more time analyzing information, formulating ideas, and discussing issues and opinions," Justin Bailey, a Magoffin County High School social studies teacher, said in the report.

Bailey uses literature like Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Grapes of Wrath to deepen his students' understanding of history and exposure to classic novels.

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