Common ground sought on new standards

By Emily Crowe

Staff writer

Nearly 150 educators, parents and community members gathered at the Arts Academy at Bella Vista Wednesday for a town hall meeting on Common Core State Standards that was hosted by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

The town hall was one of six meetings statewide meant to provide information about Common Core, offer tools and resources for parents to support their students, and address questions from attendees.

NMPED Deputy Secretary Leighann Lenti explained that the basis of Common Core is setting an expectation for what students should be able to know and do at the end of each grade level.

5-1-Town-hall-3The statewide and national set of standards in mathematics and English language arts was developed by teachers and other experts and are recognized in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

“They’re just expecting our kids to go deeper,” said Portales Municipal Schools Director of Instruction David Van Wettering.

“They expect them to read like they’re a detective and write like they’re an investigative reporter.”

For example, a mathematics curriculum will now focus on specific concepts broken down by grade level, and each year students will learn fewer concepts at a deeper level to ensure proper understanding.

As for how Common Core will affect the local community, Van Wettering said the changes brought along with the standards will undoubtedly cause stress in the schools.

“It’s a big paradigm shift for teachers and our kids,” he said. “Until we adjust to the change, you’re just going to see some stress. I think eventually you are going to see kids that are better critical thinkers, better problem-solvers.”

Opponents of the standards worry that teachers are not given flexibility in how they teach, leading to burnout among teachers and confusion among students and parents.

Clovis Municipal Schools began implementing Common Core Standards for kindergarten through third grade in 2012, and for fourth through 12th grade in 2013.

According to Clovis Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Cindy Martin, teachers in the district have been professional in implementing the new standards even though some have faced frustration along the way.

“They have worked hard, they have stuck with it,” Martin said. “Even if they’re not happy about the change, they’re about kids. If it’s something we have to do, they’re going to do it well.”

Eastern New Mexico University education major Dylan Houlihan said he attended the meeting to learn more about Common Core and see what PED had to say about it.

“A lot of people aren’t happy,” he said. Knowing Common Core will have to be implemented, though, Houlihan said he is learning how it can be done and what parents and teachers can do to help it along.

Retired educator Lynda Milburn said she has found many frustrated parents and teachers in the area who are still trying to figure out how best to help their students get through the transition to Common Core.

“I learned a lot and I was glad to see the parents get involved and talked about frustrations,” she said.

Kris Nielsen, a former teacher, national speaker and vocal opponent of Common Core, will be in Clovis May 8 to talk about his views regarding the system.