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Board members talk Common Core at work session

Kimberly Jordan kjordan@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Mar 25, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Members of the Wilson County Board of Education had some of their questions about Common Core answered Monday.

The board met in a work session with several administrators to discuss various aspects of Common Core and how it has been addressed in the school system.

"We are here tonight to talk about Common Core and what we've been doing as a school system with Common Core. It's a little unusual for what we do in our classrooms to become such big topics on the hill, but is has been," said Interim Director of Schools Mary Ann Sparks. "We need to share with you what we've discovered in the classrooms with Common Core."

Leisa Justus, deputy director of academics for Wilson County, presented some facts about the program.

"I took on three years ago as part of my administrative work the [role of] Common Core coach for the state of Tennessee," said Justus. "I coach administrators, principals across the state. I did that very intentionally because I wanted to be on the front edge of these new standards when they came up."

She said Common Core was first discussed in 1996 and that the governor of Tennessee was in on that original meeting.

"They looked at what we need as businesses for new workers coming in, what we need as post-secondary for students coming in. The [Kindergarten]-12 people were there saying, 'This is what we're teaching.' The business people and the college people were saying, 'This is what we need,' and they started trying to align that.

"There are 33 states now reviewing their commitment to the standards. The greatest outcome to this is we are going to have more widespread knowledge than ever before on the standards that are being taught to our children," said Justus.

She invited Supervisor of Testing and Accountability Angela Rohen to the podium to address some concerns about testing, including the PARCC assessment. She said the assessment will begin being administered in the 2014-15 school year.

"PARCC is not an additional assessment for students. It will replace TCAP for grades 3-8 and will replace [end of course tests] in high school for [English/Language Arts] and Math.

"I know that another big concern is that we are testing our students too much. What's happening this year to next year is not more of, it's just going to be some of the things that we change to."

Justus told the board "I think maybe more than anything else this is a strong concern, a valid concern, and that is the difficult transition to these standards. That's for the students, the teachers and the parents.

"Students are so adaptable. Our students can achieve more than we've ever expected them to. Our teachers will do a great job. It's a hard transition for teachers because its going to take a lot of planning.

Board member Ron Britt said he didn't "understand everything I need to understand about Common Core, but the bottom line ought to be how does a student best learn. If it's the right way to learn then it's what we should be doing."

Bill Robinson added "we've always been able to handle these things. Our people do a great job. Somebody just needs to take the politics out of the game and tell us what we need to do, and let's go.

Board Chair Don Weathers said, "Until we get an affirmative answer from [the legislature] on what their intentions are, we really won't know how this is going to affect us going forward."

He suggested the board see what happens in the legislature, and then if they have decided to adopt the standards, to have another work session.

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