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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Common Core in Fort Thomas Schools; What is it?

A Teacher's POV

By Lelia Shipp Wendel

Common Core is a major buzz word in the world of education right now, and there are so many sides to the story. What is common core? What is it really going to do for our children? How are the teachers going to use this in their classrooms? Is this just another type of No Child Left Behind? What are the downsides to Common Core? These are just a few of the many questions I set out to research and I hope to give you a little insight into this new program.

So what is Common Core?

According to their website, the mission of Common Core State Standards is to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn.”  These are specific standards that are going to be implemented across the United States, so that all students are on the same playing field. 
This is a huge benefit in many areas. If you have to move states, your child should be learning very similar if not the exact same standards as their previous school, which has not always been the case. Also, when your child goes off the college, you can feel confident that your child has been introduced to the same standards as their peers all across the nation. For many years, states {and sometimes school districts} had their own standards, and some states have yet to implement common core into their curriculum. 

Is this just another type of No Child Left Behind? No Child Left Behind was kind of an sort of system that was put in place to make sure that we were truly aiding children to become successful students. Common Core State Standards are more about the specific standards that will be taught {i.e: a kindergarten math standard is that all children be able to count to 100 by ones and by tens.} This has been designed so that teachers know exactly what they should be teaching in order for students to be on the right path in their education.
                  So how are teachers going to be incorporating Common Core State Standards into their classrooms? I decided to go straight to a Fort Thomas teacher to answer this question. Kelsey Wind, a second grade teacher at Moyer Elementary School, uses the Everyday Math series and the Journeys reading series in her classroom. 

Ms. Wind explains that “both are closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Of course, no series is perfect, but these do a fabulous job of helping me cover the standards.” Ms. Wind brings up a fabulous point, so many of the materials that teachers have to use in their classrooms today are written alongside the Common Core State Standards, which helps a great deal when planning!  Ms. Wind also discusses her love for the Common Core State Standard’s use of speaking and listening as a learning objective:  “I believe that in today’s digital world students still need to participate in collaborative conversations and use their oral language skills to present their knowledge and ideas.”
                  Common Core has, however, been getting a lot of backlash from teachers across the country. With these standards, comes lots of assessing and documentation in order to make sure students are learning and keeping a certain pace. This can, and does, take a lot of teaching time away from the classroom. Many teachers also feel that their creativity in their teaching has been limited because of the strict standards and schedule that they have been put on. A Tennessee student spoke out about Common Core, teacher evaluations, and education data at a recent Knox County School Board meeting in November. He was quoted as saying “If everything I learned in high school is a measureable objective, I have not learned anything.” 

                  I am not here to tell you how to think, but to just present a tiny bit of the conversation. I urge you to do your research and form your own dialog. However I will say this: do your best to support your teachers. They are doing the best they can in order to follow these guidelines and teach your children. Support them, encourage them, and maybe guy them a coffee every now and then.


  1. Common Core HAS to be good, right? I mean, Bill Gates funded it and developed it. And he's smart and rich. It's SCIENCE PEOPLE!

    (NOTE: I Used my sarcasm font for the above comment)

  2. Like most public policy issues, when it comes to Common Core, many among us are either uninformed, misinformed, do not care or are operating with some unrelated personal agenda of malicious intent. As a School Board member over the past EIGHT, (8) years, I would share the following FACTS. Common Core, as manifested in Kentucky, particularly in Fort Thomas, is not some evil Obama mind trick which is being forcibly imposed upon us from the Federal level. It IS NOT taking away the latitude of local Boards and Administrators as some of our misguided state legislators, (Joe Fischer, Tom Kerr, etc.) have put forth in their abysmal sponsorship of HB 215 which would dismantle the academic progress achieved by the very Senate Bill 1 WHICH THEY SPONSORED. We have been using the "Everyday Math" curriculum for several years, predating "Common Core." In fact, Kentucky was actually way out front in the adoption of what we call Common Core when Fort Thomas helped to lead the fight for testing and curriculum reform by drafting and passing Kentucky Senate Bill 1, (2009) into law. Among other things, this reform ditched useless testing and associatiated curriculum structured under the CATS testing regimen. These tests, like many of the things which accompanied the Kentucky Education Reform Act, (1990) were detrimental to our progress and did nothing to improve student learning. They served only to compare school to school and district to district, but did nothing to track or assist in the improvement of EACH STUDENT'S individual academic performance on their K-12, kindergarten to college learning trajectory. The replacement under Kentucky Common Core / Senate Bill 1 was to align curriculum with the IOWA tests, which we have been using for years at the elementary level, with the ACT, (pre-college) testing series which starts in middle school and extends to college entry testing with the Explore, Plan and ACT sequential test series. In plain English, this approach allows teachers to assess EACH STUDENT'S current level of achievement and address any learning deficiencies or areas for needed improvement THROUGHOUT the K-12, kindergarten to college, personal best trajectory which is to be completed by each student. This is something that Fort Thomas has always done, but which was not available statewide and had to be done in addition to the state mandated system. Since the passage of Senate Bill 1, we are all singing the same tune, not only within Kentucky, but we can truly assess how our districts and students stack up compared to their regional and national peers in this Global economy. As an example of the sort of local control which remains and which Fort Thomas has continued to pioneer in the state of Kentucky, our "normal" and "advanced" curriculum structure has, (mostly) been replaced by a "normal" and "Advanced Placement" curriculum structure. Under the "Advanced Placement", (AP) course catalog, students can take college level courses while still in high school. If they pass the end of year exam, they can earn transferable college level credit for their coursework. No matter if they only take one or two AP classes for pre-colege experience, (even without passing the end-of-year test) or go so far as to earn an entire year's college credit while at Highlands, (entering college as a Sophomore)casting our net wider by having an open enrollment policy which recruits more students to AP courses has paid dividends. In the last five years, Highlands has gone from 29% to 69% of its graduates earning at least one class worth of college credit while still at Highlands. Despite the chicken little, gloom and doom panic being spread by some regarding Common Core, I can convey with absolute confidence that the best-in-state Fort Thomas District has found Common Core, as we see it implemented, as a stellar tool in helping each student achieve true college and careeer readiness.

  3. Common core is terrible. I've had kids go through FTIS for the past 15 years and I can see a significant decrease on the level of college readiness.