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Common U.S. school standards debut in Hillsborough first

Ohanian Comment: In the "just a coincidence" category, in Nov. 2009, Hillsborough received $100 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to radically change teacher practices. The Gates Foundation has also poured millions into developing promoting the Common Core Standards--giving barrels full of money to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Governors Association (NGA), Achieve, Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and others. But remember: Everybody from the PTA to ASCD to the Center for Teacher Quality has their fingers in the Common Core profit pot.

Here are the districts involved in this current Gates plan: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Denver, District of Columbia, Hillsborough County FL, Houston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Prince GeorgeĆ¢€™s County, Rochester, and Seattle. They operate under the aegis of the Gates-funded Aspen Urban Superintendents Network, which has been made possible by generous grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.

Note the AFT kudos to Gates--for the Hillsborough, Memphis, Pittsburgh seduction. For those who can stomach it, here is Gates' speech at the AFT convention, proving that neither he nor the AFT have any sense of shame.

by Scott Iskowitz

Hillsborough is one of 15 school districts across the country participating in a pilot program to implement the new benchmarks.
Hillsborough is one of 15 school districts across the country participating in a pilot program to implement the new benchmarks.

TAMPA -- Some local school leaders are calling it the biggest education issue in decades.

And it has nothing to do with teacher tenure, merit pay or even the budget deficit.

It's the creation of Common Core State Standards, a set of uniform academic benchmarks for kindergarten through grade 12 that provide more rigorous instruction so students nationwide are college and career ready.

Forty-eight states, including Florida, have adopted the standards, introduced last year by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and endorsed by the Obama administration.

In Hillsborough County, teachers and students could see changes to classroom instruction as early as this fall, said Lynn Dougherty-Underwood, the district's supervisor of middle and high school reading.

District officials meet Thursday at 1 p.m. for a workshop to discuss the standards, which set skills for mathematics, English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science and technical programs.

Hillsborough is one of 15 school districts across the country participating in a pilot program to implement the new benchmarks, a process that will involve retraining teachers and creating new tests.

The program, led by The Aspen Institute Program on Education and Society and The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, will allow districts to share strategies.

Florida, like many states, already is streamlining its standards. The new benchmarks aren't that different, education leaders say.

They were created by math and English experts along with feedback from the general public, teachers, parents, business leaders and others such as the National PTA.

The idea is to align expectations with more rigorous lessons that build a foundation over time. The standards also require students to apply the knowledge, even at the earliest of grades.

For example, kindergartners should be able to compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.

First-graders should be able to explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information.

Second-graders should be able to describe how words and phrases supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem or song.

The goal is to improve the quality of education, said Dougherty-Underwood, who called the undertaking "huge.''

"It is the foundation of all we do,'' she said.

In addition, the Common Core Standards help level the playing field, especially for students whose families move around the country a lot, said Melissa Erickson, president of the Hillsborough County Council of PTA/PTSA.

"Common Core Standards are the No. 1 issue right now for military families," said Erickson, a Navy wife who moved with her family 11 times in some 20 years.

Having common standards won't only benefit them, but also teachers, school districts and state education budgets, she said.

"Right now, we spend about $197 million a year in remediation at public universities," Erickson said. "A lot has to do with what they missed in public education.''

Not only will those costs drop, she said, but states will be able to save money in test development and teacher preparation as well.

The new standards are supported by the National PTA, which also pushed for other historic changes in the educational system, such as kindergartens, hot lunches and libraries, Erickson said.

"This is the biggest thing right now in education."

Hillsborough school officials also will discuss the 2011-2012 budget during the workshop at the Raymond O. Shelton Administrative Center, 901 E. Kennedy Blvd.

— Scott Iskowitz
Tampa Tribune





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