The Bradley County Board of Education continued its discourse over the merits of the Common Core curriculum during Thursday night’s meeting. First District board member Chris Turner in his Tennessee Legislative Network report stated that, while speaking with state representatives, he was told that the legislature is anxious to hear a collective opinion from the board on Common Core.
Following Mr. Turner’s report, Board Chair Vicki Osment Beaty shared what she learned about local implementation of the Common Core. Ms. Beaty said, “I visited several schools and I asked them to give me positives and challenges.”
Ms. Beaty listed among positive impacts of the curriculum, as relayed to her by the teachers she spoke with, as higher comprehension skills, improved writing skills, cross curriculum literacy, and uniformity in the curriculum that allows for a better measurement of student progress. Some of the stated challenges mentioned by Ms. Beaty included questions about the age or grade appropriateness of the elementary curriculum, multiple standards within standards, and the schools system’s technological preparedness for the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing.
Taylor Elementary school Principal and Common Core coach Elizabeth Kaylor said the changes that have come along with the adoption the new curriculum are difficult, but that real change always is. Ms. Kaylor said new standards are rigorous and much higher than anything the school system has done in the past. She also added that, while teachers have put forth a great deal of effort in learning how to work with the new standards, more time for professional development is needed so that the teachers can gain expertise in the Common Core. “They must be equipped to design and deliver lessons that ensure that students will be well prepared to compete on a national and international level. But why would we want anything less our children?” said Ms. Kaylor.
Ms. Kaylor continued, “I have been so impressed with the level of commitment that teachers at Taylor have demonstrated to being scholars of Common Core. They have eagerly participated in trainings and spent numerous hours on their own time to embrace this change. As a result they are becoming reading and math specialists and their students are attaining new heights.”
Vice Chairman Nicholas Lillios raised concerns about the rigor of the testing and the school system’s tech readiness for the testing. He also questioned the staying power of the new curriculum, “There have been several standard changes over the years. Every couple of years something new has come out. Is this one different? Does it stick? Or is it one of a chain of many more to come?”
Mr. Turner added that he has heard all the "propaganda" before and reiterated the need to quantify the real impact of the Common Core.
Beyond the Core discussion, the board also approved policy changes concerning discrimination, harassment, bullying, and intimidation.
The Board also approved the calendar for the 2014-15 school year.
Tennessee School Boards Association District Director Kathy Dougherty was in attendance to present the Board with the Board of Distinction Award. In order to be considered as a Board of Distinction, a school board must meet several criteria falling under the categories of policy, planning, promotion, and board development.