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Superintendent defends Common Core

Posted: Thursday, Oct 17th, 2013

Uinta County School District No. 1 Superintendent of Instruction Dr. James Bailey defends the Common Core State Standards at a recent meeting, explaining why he believes the standards are good for students and their future. (HERALD PHOTO/Bryon Glathar)

EVANSTON — Uinta County School District No. 1 continued its support of Common Core State Standards last week, when Superintendent for Instruction Dr. James Bailey addressed a crowd at the monthly Evanston Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“They were not written by the Obama Administration,” Bailey said of the standards that Gov. Matt Mead signed into law over two years ago. “They were not written by the Department of Education.”

Bailey explained that a panel of representatives on state levels wrote the standards. And while a massive amount of discontent with the standards has to do with federal involvement, Bailey said the federal government is already involved.

“The state of Wyoming gets about $370 million from the feds for Title 1, 3, 6 and Perkins,” Bailey wrote in an email to the Herald. “All of these have been in place for many years, so if our state wanted no federal ties whatsoever, the state budget would need to come up with replacement money for these or districts would lose quite a bit of money.”

He stressed that just because federal funds are involved doesn’t mean the federal government is going to take control of local schools.

“That doesn’t, in my mind, amount to federal control,” Bailey said at the luncheon.

Bailey said while the standards themselves will be widespread, the way to help kids reach the standards — through the curriculum — is still entirely in the hands of local governing authorities.

“These are standards, not curriculum,” he said.

Wyoming State Rep. Allen Jaggi (R-Lyman) said he’s received numerous emails about Common Core, but few even talk about the standards.

“What are the standards?” Jaggi asked. “Most of the emails I get don’t even talk about the standards. The federal government takeover is the concern of most of the emails.”

Jaggi said he’s not keen on working with the federal government, but more attention needs to be focused on the actual standards.

“To me, every time you get the federal government involved, I’m leery of it,” he said. “[But] if they’re good standards, we ought to be looking at them. … All the superintendents I associate with said, ‘These are good standards.’ Wherever they come from, if they’re good, we ought to use them.”

Bailey said a recent study shows the Common Core State Standards are higher than current standards in 39 states in math and 37 states in English Language Arts.

Wyoming is definitely raising its standards with Common Core, Bailey said.

“I think our math gets a D+ and I think our English gets a D or an F,” he said.

Bailey highlighted a few of the standards, such as: “Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking,” and “Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.”

He then asked if anyone objects to students having to meet these standards before leaving high school. The room was silent.

Bailey also said too many high school graduates aren’t college ready, and “ninety-seven percent of students leaving this year will need some form of secondary education.”

He also pointed out results of a study that left 86 percent of surveyed college professors saying Common Core met expectations for freshman courses.

Bailey spoke briefly about former Pres. George W. Bush’s mark on education with the “No Child Left Behind Act” — considered by most to be an enormous failure.

Bailey said the act lowered standards, when in many cases they were too low already.

It also tied up any free time a teacher may have had to use for lesson planning and preparation.

“As a former teacher,” Jaggi said, “the most valuable time I had was to prepare to teach my kids.”

He also talked about privacy — something that Common Core critics are worried about losing.

Bailey said to those who fear the federal government is using Common Core as a large data mine: “You’re being fed a lot of lines.”

He said there are privacy laws currently in place that prohibit such an act.

“You cannot have a named identifier for a student,” Bailey said.

He also said schools aren’t allowed to ask a student’s religion or sexual orientation, and that won’t change with Common Core.

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