New learning standards spur debate in Michigan

Educational goals being implemented in Michigan schools have sparked a contentious debate in Lansing, pitting Republican Gov. Rick Snyder against the Republican-led Legislature that is taking steps to halt the standards.
AP Wire
May 27, 2013

In 2010, Michigan's State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards benchmarks in reading, writing and math, which 44 other states have adopted. The standards, developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, are designed to provide clear goals for teachers, boost student performance and allow for educational cooperation and comparison among states.

But some Michigan lawmakers and residents say the standards could lead to a federal takeover of the state's education system by stripping power away from the Legislature and school districts to make decisions about what goes on in the classroom.

Rep. Tom McMillin, a Rochester Hills Republican, is backing legislation that would prohibit the state from implementing the standards and the test that goes with them. Meanwhile, the state House recently passed a budget bill for the Department of Education that includes language blocking the department from spending money on developing and implementing the standards. A budget passed in the Senate includes similar language.

That could change in the coming days as lawmakers work to approve the final budget. Jan Ellis, the department's spokeswoman, said in an email that they will "continue to work with both the House and Senate to build better understanding of the importance of the Common Core Standards for the students and the future of Michigan."

Snyder recently defended the standards during a visit with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, calling them a "really important opportunity" for Michigan.

"Unfortunately, it's been too much about politics," he said. "It's being viewed as the federal government putting another mandate on us ... it was the governors of the states getting together ... to say we want a partner at the national level and all levels to say, 'Let's raise the bar.'"

Meanwhile, many teachers in Michigan schools are beginning to use the benchmarks. The goal is for all districts to use the standards by the beginning of next school year.

"This train has already left the station," said Michael Yocum, executive director of learning services for Oakland Schools, the county's intermediate school district. "We are so far down the road now." Yocum is overseeing the implementation of the standards throughout the county's school districts.

One of the biggest changes the standards will bring is a greater focus on writing, he said. He said teachers using the standards in Oakland County are pleased with gains they've seen.

In math, students will learn fewer topics each year but go more in-depth. The goal is for students to master a topic, instead of repeating it every year, said William Schmidt, a professor and co-director of Michigan State University's Education Policy Center. In middle school, students will learn more algebra and geometry, rather than just arithmetic. Research Schmidt conducted on educational systems in the top achieving countries was used as the basis for the Common Core math standards.

The fight against Common Core has sprouted up in legislatures across the country, from Alabama, to Utah. In Indiana, lawmakers recently passed a proposal to halt the full implementation of the standards until they can study the costs and hold public meetings. While some states have chosen not to adopt the standards, no states have successfully banned them. But opponents say they have momentum.

"You're seeing the bubbling up of something that's not going away," McMillin said.

Melanie Kurdys, an education advocate and former local district board member, is one of the people leading the charge against Common Core in Michigan. She and other opponents recently spent a day at the Capitol urging lawmakers to stop the standards.

"Of course, the Michigan Department of Education has a role, but really the Michigan Constitution calls for parents to have the primary responsibility for the education of their children," Kurdys said. "So by cutting the Legislature out of this process, you really have cut the parents out of the picture."

President Barack Obama's administration wasn't involved in creating the standards but encouraged their adoption by tying the standards to some Race to the Top funding, which some view as the federal government trying to mandate a national curriculum.

"The law says the federal government cannot dictate the curriculum," McMillin said.

Snyder's administration is fighting back. In an email to reporters in response to an op-ed McMillin wrote attacking Common Core, education department spokesman Martin Ackley said the State Board of Education is elected by a statewide vote and represents Michigan citizens.

Supporters say that the benchmarks will provide consistency, ensuring that all students — no matter where they live — have the same learning opportunities.

"Why should what mathematics our children study vary by district?" Schmidt said. "Why should Lansing's math coverage be any different from New York City and Los Angeles?"

That will allow Michigan students to be better tested against their peers in other states, he said. It also will mean that teachers across the country can share ideas on improving student performance, he said.

"In so many ways, the opposition seems more concerned about ideological issues, the kinds of games adults play," Schmidt said, "and less about the impact of this for our children, our kids."

 

Comments

teachermom

This much fighting only means that one group is trying to take the money out of another groups' pockets - NOT that any politician is truly concerned about our kids !!!!!!!

Sandypants

It's much more sinister than that I'm afraid Teach. They want your child's and your families personal information.
http://michellemalkin.com/2013/0...

Sandypants
Wingmaster

Here is a link to the standards. There is a theme!!!

http://www.corestandards.org/ass...

Lanivan

Once again, far right politics and ideologies spins a sinister scenario of conspiracy theories, and blatant attempts at promoting fear tactics regarding school curriculum. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was an honest attempt to critique Common Core based on educational standards rather than some supposed fear of a conspiracy perpetrated by Big Brother to turn our children into registered zombies?

I wonder what the author means by this: "The result has been a NEW understanding of American culture through a rewriting of history—one that belittles or denies those values that encourage Americans to achieve their dreams". (From Sandypants link, truthinamerica). For example, most Americans were not taught that our current national holiday of Memorial Day originated, in part, from events in 1865 by black residents of Charleston, SC, to honor those black soldiers who died in the Civil War. I wonder if that is the kind of American history the author hopes to be taught to provide students with values that "encourage Americans to achieve their dreams"?

Wingmaster

I have no idea where people get the idea that our children are being turned into registered zombies! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P...

Lanivan

"Barack Hussein Obama - equal work for equal pay". "Barack Hussein Obama - red, yellow, black, or white - all are equal in (H)his sight". The words of "indoctrinated" children being taught to respect and honor their president when they should be taught to hate, disrespect, and repeat lies and propaganda, like the comments posted below the video. Wing, you outdid yourself this time.

Meanwhile, the registered zombie comment comes from Michelle Malkins link, again provided by Sandypants. Her diatribe contains all sorts of warnings of conspiracies, apocalyptic data-eating monsters within the federal government that will turn our educational system into a vast wasteland of non-knowledge and our students into victims of "creepy data-mining". Moving on from the failed birther and truther conspiracy theories, we must fill in the blanks with some other horrible scenario.

Oddly, she seems most upset that "Republican leadership" supports Common
Core, and the fact that it utilizes private enterprise. With the conservative push to privatize education, and outsource administrative, transportation, maintenance, and any other possible areas within school systems, I find her concerns rather confusing....or maybe a better description would be lacking intelligence and logical reasoning. But then, maybe that's what she's most afraid of - Common Core might actually teach students logic, deductive reasoning, and fact-based information. O, the horror of it all!

Wingmaster

If you do not see or get a creepy feeling from watching the children in that vid...mmm, mmm, mmm I don't think we can have a realistic discussion any more!

Perhaps if it would have been children singing praise to GWB you would be itchy about it. I know I would have the same reaction. Guess that makes me more centrist you Lan. MMMM, MMMM, MMM!!!

Lanivan

If the children were singing praises about Obama the man, (or Bush, or any president) it would be creepy, but they were singing about principles of equality and diversity, that Obama, as a new president when this video was filmed, represented to the nation, and was much celebrated, especially among children. Young children usually haven't developed the prejudices, biases, and political cynicism adults might have.

Helping in the classroom during the Clinton years, I remember special lessons and songs on President's Day, about Clinton and past presidents, etc. Nothing creepy about it, as I recall.

Now this is creepy, but I do have compassion for W. At that moment, I think he was a totally lost soul who knew his life, presidency, and the nation had changed forever. Just think - Wing more centrist than me!! Now that's a topic for discussion.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...

Wingmaster

Last verse....So continue ---- Mr. President we know you'll do the trick
So here's a hearty hip-hooray ----

Little did we know at the time how many tricks he had up his sleeves!

"Young children usually haven't developed the prejudices, biases, and political cynicism adults might have." No Lan that comes from the indoctrination of singing songs!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F...

Wingmaster

Last verse....So continue ---- Mr. President we know you'll do the trick
So here's a hearty hip-hooray ----

Little did we know at the time how many tricks he had up his sleeves!

"Young children usually haven't developed the prejudices, biases, and political cynicism adults might have." No Lan that comes from the indoctrination of singing songs!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F...

Lanivan

Hey - no duplicate comment! Maybe you became hypnotized watching these videos! Or your finger is just tired from all the copy/pasting! Or, you are testing me to see if I noticed!

Wingmaster

Yup. Lets see I save the comment and use back button and it duplicates without hitting save again! Well lets see what happens this time!

Wingmaster

Dang, didn't work that time!

Lanivan

Your phone can not be indoctrinated.

Wingmaster

I have no idea where people get the idea that our children are being turned into registered zombies! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P...

Wingmaster

I also have no idea why I get double post off a smart phone all the time when I have links! Maybe my links are just that good!

Lanivan

An itchy trigger finger?....

Sandypants

There is much information available to you my dear Michigan. READ AND LEARN. Don’t be so willing to swallow that “all for one, and one for all” pill that the federal government is so slyly offering you. Reality is that there is no going back once you have given up your freedom. No going back.

SmallBusinessOwner

Lets see. I have a business that hires non-college educated workers in West Michigan and requires that they can read, write, spell, add, subtract, and multiply. Guess what, they are hard to find. I pay $10-12 per hour with benefits. Still hard to find them. We can't blame Obama as these folks are in their late 20's. Something is wrong when you can't find employees with 3rd or 4th grade skills. Following standards set for the whole country would save Michigan money and probably help. Conspiracy theorists who think that the Feds are going to brainwash our children are afraid of their own shadows. Time to man and woman up if America is to return to greatness. Countries that are out-pacing us in trade and standard of living growth have National Educational Standards.

Sandypants

Do you have children in the public school system SmallBusiness?

Vladtheimp

It's articles and comments like these that make me understand how Obama got elected and re-elected - you can't fix stupid.

Education was highly prized and successful in the U.S. before the federal government and progressive (liberal) educators and unions decided it needed fixing. In New York State, I attended public schools; where I lived, schools were so crowded that we attended 1/2 day sessions but nonetheless had to pass New York State Regents Exams in the basic subjects to go on to the next grade. Fail your Regents, repeat the grade. Did we have to memorize things? Yes. Were we in fear of failing? Yes! Amazing how fear can cause one to focus and exercise self-discipline. Did we learn? Darn right we did. But then progressive educators, and the federal government decided memorizing was bad. Diagramming sentences was bad. Learning American history was bad. Failing children who didn't apply themselves was bad. And now our public education is largely a joke, though less so in areas like Grand Haven than, say, Detroit.

So now, having ruined public education, the federal government and progressives are going to fix it - kind of like trusting Bernie Madoff to fix securities investing - Good luck with that. But if you want to bet the childrens' future on more hope and change, be my guest; I am grateful for that bad old, non-progressive education that New York State and non-unionized teachers gave me (at a fraction of the cost of today's bureaucratic and sclerotic education system).

Here is the American History and World Backgrounds Regent's Exam for High School from 1953 http://128.121.13.244/awweb/pdfo...

Vladtheimp

Bad link - sorry. This is the right one http://128.121.13.244/awweb/pdfo...

Lanivan

This one doesn't work either.

Lanivan

I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't a conspiracy by progressives/gov't to keep us stupid.....:-<

Wingmaster

....ah proof its working posted at 9:39am;-)

Lanivan

It's amazing how stupid we can get in 3 minutes.....

Vladtheimp

I give up - here is the site (hopefully) http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/regent...

Lanivan

Vlad - thanks for the working link. You are absolutely correct that your school years (and mine as well) were spent during the golden era of US education when the US educational system was acknowledged to be the best in the world. Of course, I disagree with the rest of your argument, as I believe it is too banal, trite, and simplistic to blame only progressives, unions, teachers' salaries/benefits, Obama, etc for the reduction in educational gains which has taken place over the last 30 years. Again, this is a much too complex a situation to rationalize with simple propaganda points.

US education and economic gains are symbiotic, and can't be viewed individually. For most of the 20th century, our system led the world in education resulting in an influx of educated skilled workers. This coincided with the explosion of economic growth and as a result, income equality and the creation of a huge middle class. Starting in the 1980's, educational gains slowed markedly, as did economic growth and rising inequality. Investments in human capital pivoted to technological investments. By the 21st century, the most critical domestic issue and important trend in the US is the increasing inequality of income, and the need for education to stay competitive with the global forces that are shaping this inequality. (Good book: "The Race Between Education & Technology", Goldin/Katz)

One thing is certain - with governmental (on all levels) fiscal constraints dictating change and the critically important need to stay globally competitive, the future US three tiered educational system will not likely look like the one many of us graduated from. It must change to win the race, notwithstanding who and/or why we want to blame for the change.

Vladtheimp

Although I still believe "progressive" educational ideas and theories, and teachers unions, caused much of the decline, I agree that economics and other factors play a role. Nonetheless, the amount we are spending to deliver a poor quality education to our children is breathtaking.

Given your thoughtful response, and point regarding influx of educated skilled workers, it would be logical to believe you agree that the Gang of 8 Comprehensive Immigration reform, which will result in some 30 million poor and uneducated immigrants coming into the U.S. and sucking up entitlements, will be bad for both the economy and education. In that regard, please see Senator Cruz's amendment regarding skilled workers that was rejected by the Senate http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/...

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