Technology, testing, and teachers all topics at Wednesday’s On Tap
The full audio to the discussion is available above. For KOSU’s series on Common Core and all the issues wrapped up in it, click here.
Educators, policy makers, and many from the general public filled Picasso Café in Oklahoma City’s Paseo District Wednesday for the discussion on Common Core, the new educational standards adopted by nearly every state in the country.
After addressing concerns about data collection and “federal intrusion”, the discussion with Joel Robison, Chief of Staff to State Superintendent Janet Barresi and Edgemere Elementary school teacher Brenda Asher, shifted to substantive issues related to technology, teaching style, and testing. Robison said the standards will focus on critical thinking skills, and students “will be asked to compare and contrast stories and passages and make arguments to justify their positions.”
Brenda Asher also offered an endorsement for the effect on students.
“They will learn to support, they will learn to give evidence.”
The state also isn’t adopting national standards for science or social studies. When challenged on that by an audience member, Robison responded, “We believe it’s important that those thoughts reflect Oklahoma’s thoughts and values. We currently have a cadre of science instructors from around the state that are working on perfecting those standards.
“We have business community people, university folks on this committee. We think that at the end of the day, they’ll be as rigorous as national standards.”
But the discussion also highlighted the testing, a contentious issue especially in Oklahoma. Recently, Superintendent Barresi pulled the state out of the Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), saying the state will develop its own test. Some have questioned whether Barresi made the decision to reduce political pressure. Joel Robison argued against that in three points: testing time, cost and technology demands (hear his answer in full at 23:35 above).
Testing, especially when its attached to consequences, has been controversial among many in the education community. Yet teacher Brenda Asher says with Common Core, it’s possible to teach without teaching to the test. She gets creative in the classroom, using music, painting, movement, and poetry to stimulate young minds.
On technology, Joel Robison said that’s still to be resolved.
“Educational technology is a state-level question. In order for local school districts to have the technology, an idea that the Superintendent is floating around is to take the lottery money that’s currently going to schools, replace it with general fund money, and earmark the lottery money for technology.” (hear his back and forth at 38:35)
Finally, will this stick? Teachers have frequently voiced concerns that Common Core is yet another reform that will quickly be replaced, before politicians and administrators give it time to either succeed or fail.
“Superintendent Barresi has never been accused of being wishy-washy,” said Joel Robison.
“We are firmly behind the academic standards implementation. The reason why I think it will stick: we’re going back to what teachers became teachers to do. To teach students how to think, how to problem solve, and how to be successful.”