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Common Core Main Topic At School Board Meeting
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The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were the primary topic of discussion and criticism at the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees Sept. 9 regular meeting.

OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Kristi Rapinchuk, gave a detailed report to the board on CCSS. Since 2010, 45 states have adopted CCSS for English and math.

OJUSD Superintendent Marc Malone stated that California Education Code mandates its implementation.

The California Department of Education’s (CDE) plan is for each school district to develop a plan to transition to CCSS by the 2014-2015 school year. According to the CDE website, the schools and/or districts also receive “implementation funds” for developing and adopting a plan explaining at a public meeting of the governing board how the CCSS implementation funds will be spent and must report detailed information on or before July 1, 2015 to the CDE, including, but not limited to, specific purchases made and the number of teachers, administrators, or paraprofessional educators that received professional development (training).

In her presentation, Rapinchuk reviewed the “six shifts” in both math and English language arts, and talked about the building of skills upon one another. She also showed a few sample test questions; some of which were complex word problems to demonstrate the need for ever-increasing skill building.

Rapinchuk stated that “Common Core does a better job of identifying rigor between grade levels” than previous standards. Teacher Lissa Jones said that state testing only asked for recall (remembering) from students and that CCSS injects study, rigor, and conversation in the classroom.

Rapinchuk said she expects to present a budget to the board by May 2014 for the implementation of CCSS. There were a couple questions from board members about costs and technology needs or upgrades related to CCSS.

Trustee Bill Dyer asked for a ballpark amount on how much OJUSD has spent to get to where it at this point with CCSS. Rapinchuk stated she didn’t have the budget with her and was unable to provide a figure at the moment but said the costs so far include release days for teachers, bringing in substitute teachers for teacher meetings, some teacher stipends, training registrations, and so on.

Trustee Diane Gilbert asked if the district was going to have to provide iPads or some form of electronic books to students or if there would be regular textbooks.

Superintendent Malone said that at this time they aren’t sure if the books will be hardbound or electronic and there may be a combination of the two.

Gilbert also later asked if the district was going to teach students to type because the test questions ask students to “type this.” Rapinchuk responded that she felt there is a necessity for “keyboard fluency.”

Trustee Mike Tozzi said he thinks the CCSS philosophy sounds good and expressed his comfort with the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent supporting it.

The Common Core initiative has not been without controversy due to its corporate backing and “globalizing” of education. Some states were given the incentive of federal “Race to the Top” grants if they implemented CCSS.

Three local residents spoke against adopting CCSS at the start of the meeting in public comments, prior to the report. The Leader apologizes for name misspellings on commenters.

Pat Bicknell, retired public school system speech therapist, expressed her concerns about Common Core, stating that she doesn’t feel parents have a good understanding of, or background on, it. She spoke about states receiving federal grant money if they adopted CCSS. She expressed concerns about the ability for teachers and administrators to make changes to Common Core instructional materials (i.e. textbooks) and the elimination of local control, what options parents would have, the Constitutionality of CCSS due to federal overreach, and the collection of extensive, private, personal data on students and teachers that would be made available to government agencies and private corporations.

Superintendent Malone stated that he shares in the concern regarding new textbooks in relation to the district having control over what is or isn’t used. He said that any textbooks will be reviewed and will be consistent with the core values of the community and meet the district’s standards.

Another commenter, Linda Gooden, expressed her concerns related to the people who developed Common Core standards. She said Bill Gates, through his foundation, has put in many millions of dollars and that as a private citizen, he shouldn’t be able to have that kind of power. She also said that UNESCO, the United Nations’ education arm, signed an agreement with Gates’ Microsoft that would help develop global education. She said that globalization means that people of the U.S. lose their Constitutional rights. She also criticized the “slashing” of fiction reading and narrative writing for more informational texts such as various governmental documents and calling them “anything that would cause the kids to hate reading.” She called CCSS “communism” and said that children will be manipulated in their education and put into a job market that is controlled by a labor board (as in communist countries). “It will destroy our schools, destroy our kids, and eventually destroy our country,” Gooden said.

Jessica Smith Jackson, a former Oakdale student and UC Davis honors graduate, said she’s concerned about the cost of implementing these programs, numbering in the billions of dollars, and said that testing costs per year per state could increase by over a hundred million dollars. She said that CCSS is giving the federal government the power to decide on children’s education. She added that she has a “fear of a one-size-fits-all educational standard.”

The next regular meeting of the OJUSD Board of Trustees will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14 at Oakdale City Council Chambers, 277 N. Second.