New Castle News

Wilmington

April 16, 2014

Wilmington superintendent discusses common core

NEW CASTLE — The Wilmington district has no reason to fear new Pennsylvania Core standards, superintendent Dr. Michelle Miller said.

She talked about the standards to approximately two dozen residents at the school board’s monthly pre-meeting Monday.

Miller acknowledged the “elephant in the room” when discussing Common Core is economic implications, political views and “heated topics.”

But she said the new learning goals will not impose a state curriculum or reading list on the district.

In Pennsylvania, educators have tailored the new Common Core national learning goals specifically for the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s new Pennsylvania Core Standards were approved in January and now dictate minimum standards for English language arts and mathematics, which will be used for state testing.

Several residents criticized the new standards, claiming they will introduce “fuzzy math,” national reading lists and a political agenda into the classroom.

Resident Karen DiMuccio, wife of board member Dr. Bo DiMuccio, said the Common Core reading lists contain works of “indoctrination, moral relativism and pornography.”

One man requested “roundtable-type discussions” about the new standards between the board and the public. Miller said she is open to scheduling such an event.

But she insisted that “what we teach and how we teach it will remain a local decision.”

She added the district has never used “canned” curriculum and teachers will continue to write curriculum as they have done in the past. Miller also said that while the core standards describe the “minimum,” the district is not restricted from providing advanced curriculum beyond what the standards require.

“The curriculum is ours,” the superintendent said, adding the Wilmington district has standards “that are nowhere in the Pennsylvania Core standards.”

She said that while the district is required to have a policy describing how it will enact “Chapter 4,” which outlines the Pennsylvania Core requirements, the local districts “may develop, expand and improve existing academic standards.”

Miller added that the district also decides “when to offer what standards.” In addition, the core standards address math and language arts, but do not address such things as business education or whether a district should offer physics or what type of labs it should offer and at what level, she said. It also has nothing to do with teaching cursive, which Miller said has never been in the standards.

She said the Pennsylvania Core expressly prohibits required use of a statewide curriculum or statewide reading list. Even though the new standards focus on informational texts, Miller explained, the new core standards will not eliminate classic literature, such as Shakespeare, and “we will continue to select the best resources.”

She added the Pennsylvania Core also does not eliminate accelerated algebra concepts, which will be taught “when students are developmentally ready.”

Miller said Common Core is supposed to develop “higher order thinking skills,” such as those conceptualized in Norman Webb’s “Depth of Knowledge” concept, which encourages learning beyond mere memorization of facts.

She said that school administrators have been working for the past few years to get ready for implementation of the new standards. Miller said 2014-15 is the first school year that student testing will be based on Pennsylvania Core standards.

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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