HELENA — A group of past winners of the teacher of the year award have come out in support of the new Common Core education standards, and the state says it is asking for a federal testing waiver for the new system.
Most schools in Montana are implementing the standards this year. The Board of Education decided two years ago to join 44 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting standards that aim to better prepare the nation’s students for college or a job
A statement released Friday by 21 past Montana teachers of the year voiced support for the program. The supporters said the standards clearly explain what is expected of students at each grade level, and the curriculum teaches critical thinking over memorization.
Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to replace educational goals that varied greatly in each state
The group said that collectively they have more than 500 years of teaching experience and think the standards are more rigorous, specific and comprehensive. They also said the standards put English and math competencies into other subject areas to improve learning.
Mary Sheehy Moe, who won the award in 1987 and taught English in Columbia Falls, said the teachers felt vocal support was needed to help dispel “lot of misinformation and unwarranted fear.”
Moe said that the standards give teachers clear guidance for expected outcomes and make sure that Montana students keep up.
“Because these standards have been adopted by 45 states, that is kind of an indicator we are going to have a level playing field for our kids,” she said.
Many opponents, led by conservative groups, argue the nationally developed standards trample on local control of schools, and try to control education of children.
Efforts to repeal or slow down the Common Core have sprung up in several states, and the Republican National Committee passed a critical resolution.
Republicans on the legislative Education and Local Government Interim Committee have said they are going to look at whether the Board of Public Education properly analyzed the cost on local schools. The board has said it did.
The state, on Thursday, asked the federal government for permission to test based on Common Core standards, rather than on the “No Child Left Behind” law.
“As we move forward with implementing new, higher English and math standards, it makes no sense to test our students on standards that are no longer being taught in the classroom,” Superintendent Denise Juneau said in a statement.
The Office of Public Instruction said its request to change testing for Common Core was backed by 350 comments in support from superintendents, principals, school counselors, teachers, and others.
“Montana is ready to move forward with the new assessment and not double-test our students this year,” Juneau said.