Candidates for state school board on the issues: Do you support the Common Core standards?

Common_core

Last week we sent five questions to candidates for Kansas State Board of Education District 2 which covers a large part of Johnson County. The set of questions came from those submitted by readers.

Here are the responses from incumbent Republican Steve Roberts and Democrat challenger Chris Cindric to our first question. Today’s question is:

What is your position on the continued use of the Common Core standards?

Chris Cindric

Chris Cindric
Chris Cindric

I continue to support rigorous standards that prepare all students to be competitive in a global economy.  The standards, very simply, address what students need to know and understand by the time they graduate from high school.  They were drafted by qualified experts including teachers. The standards are appropriate in terms of expectations and development.  Standards develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills and provide a way for teachers to measure student progress compared to peers.

As a school psychologist, I welcome the inclusion of  social and emotional standards to address soft-skills needed for work readiness and I appreciate that the  State Board of Education is getting input from qualified stakeholders in the community.

Steve Roberts

Roberts_@Thank you for the opportunity to answer a series of very good journalistic questions for this local newspaper. We need more of this kind of coverage for elections that have more effect on our lives and the benefit of our children than the presidential contest. I pray this is the truth of things.

With the help of many people and some professional writers, we have put together more rigorous math standards at “Real Math Standards.” They are published on the world-wide web.

Common Core standards for math, termed “Kansas College and Career Ready Standards” in 2010 by a previous board, will be adjusted to permit more students to learn the wonderful language of mathematics. We pass too many children along (distinct from special education students) without learning place value, fractions, or the meaning of a decimal point. This happens all too frequently in poor and hardscrabble districts around our state. Poorer schools tend to get our least experienced teachers. Johnson County schools are a destination for professional educators, and we are blessed to have them. Thankfully, the number of intelligent students in Johnson County who fail to grasp basic mathematics is minimal.

Innovations we propose at realmathstandards.com include “taking the birthday out of the equation.” We might illustrate this with a child who comes to kindergarten already understanding first-grade arithmetic. We should pass this student directly to second grade math class the next year (if not before). Too often, again, more often in hardscrabble schools, we simply process the child through our “system” based on their birthday instead of their interests and abilities.

Another innovation at realmathstandards.com is the recommendation of no calculator use in K-2. And for grades 3 to 5, calculator use should be very limited and very closely monitored. We are crippling too many children with calculator use too early in their academic careers. Data shows that better results for mastery of arithmetic comes from traditional pencil-and-paper practice of fundamental facts and word problems that employ those facts.

Make no mistake; our children should be encouraged to point-and-click on computers at an early age. Nevertheless, the mastery of arithmetic requires thinking and a bit of memorization. We gloss over this all too often.

Standards for English, history, or anything else are the domain of experts other than myself. We have Kansans with that expertise.