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For Nevada, Debate On Common Core Continues

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The battle over Common Core is still going on in Nevada.

Depending on who is asked, the phrase "Common Core" may evoke a smile or a grimace.

Common Core, which was passed in Nevada in 2009 by wide margins in the Legislature, calls for consistency in educational standards in each of the 50 states.

Assemblyman Brent Jones (R-Las Vegas) is sponsoring Assembly Bill 303, which would roll back the standards in Nevada.

Critics have called the Common Core government overreach.

However, Emily Richmond, the public editor for the Education Writers Association, told KNPR’s State of Nevada the federal government wasn’t involved in the development or implementation of the standards. Instead, it was created and supported by states and governors across the country.

“Common Core is a common set of expectations for what students will know and be able to do at grade level,” Richmond said.

She said most people don’t understand what it is or how it was created.

“There’s a fundamental misunderstanding about where this is coming from and it’s being seen as federal mandate,” Richmond said.

And although, federal money for schools is tied to states setting higher standards, it doesn’t necessarily mean states will lose money if they roll back Common Core. Currently, 40 states, including Nevada, have agreed to use the standards.  

Support comes from

Richmond said the standards work to combat a long-held criticism of the American education system that it is “a mile-wide but only an inch deep.” She said a main part of Common Core is to teach students to be more creative and critical thinkers.

However, despite its best intentions, Common Core brings up concerns outside the misplaced belief that it is a federal mandate.

“There are educators out there who have very real concerns about whether these are appropriate standards, whether this is going to be a push down into the lower grades with expectations,” Richmond said.

Those concerns about demanding too much from younger students is one of the big problems the Network for Public Education has with the standards.

“There is a lot of concern, especially in the K through 3 -- the early grades --  that it is developmentally inappropriate and that the way kids learn at that age is going to be hampered,” Robin Hiller with the Network for Public Education said.

There are also concerns that the standards strip away a teacher’s ability to creatively instruct their students. Hill pointed to curriculum in New York as an example. She said the curriculum told teachers exactly how to read a fairy tale to their students down to when to make eye contact with them.

“They feel stymied. They cannot do the activities that can help the children,” Hill said, “Their focus has become more and more narrow.”

Richmond said teachers are worried about the standards and what it will mean for classrooms, but she reminds everyone that Common Core are just standards, not curriculum.

“We need to be careful not to negate the very real concerns that people have about Common Core. It’s not fair to just dismiss them as just wrong or crazy or misguided,” Richmond said.

She doesn’t think people should see Common Core as the silver bullet that will fix the country’s schools or as the program to blame entirely for any problem a parent might have with his child’s school.

“You need to think of Common Core as this concept or idea of scaffolding or underpinning that’s going to help support great instruction and great teaching,” Richmond said.

Hiller disagrees. She believes the standards don’t play to America’s strengths of creativity.

“I think there is a battle in this country about whether we should be this standardized country or if we’re going to allow teachers the freedom to know what is right, and really focus on teachers to come up with happens in their classrooms,” Hiller said.

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga supports Common Core and so does Dan Klaich, the chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the officials sent a joint letter to the Assembly Education Committee opposing the bill to repeal Common Core.

Guests

Emily Richmond, public editor, Education Writers Association; Robin Hiller, executive director, Network for Public Education

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