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District aiming higher than DPI

Dec. 10, 2013

Germantown — The Germantown School District will begin shifting its focus away from the Common Core State Standards at the start of the new year, in favor of developing its own set of curriculum standards.

The School Board on Monday voted unanimously to begin work on the development of a modern, comprehensive and systemic curriculum beginning in January 2014, that will align with the future "Germantown Model of Standards for Academic Achievement," as recommended by Superintendent Jeff Holmes.

As part of its motion, the board acknowledged that it would still use the Common Core as a guide in developing its curriculum, but not as a standard, and committed to having its revamped curriculum available online as it is developed.

Not 'the answer'

In his presentation to the board, Holmes noted that while students in the Germantown School District perform well on state assessments when compared to other districts with similar demographics, "The problem is we are not the best, and I don't perceive Common Core as being the answer."

Brenda O'Brien, director of teaching and learning, told the board that the district began aligning its curriculum to the Common Core three years ago, after its adoption by the state in 2010 for the subject areas of math and English. This fall, teachers at all grade levels completed staff development for curriculum writing and development, O'Brien said, and are expected to go through additional training for curriculum design this month, with follow-up to occur at in-services in the coming months.

In its consideration of the three options proposed by administration for implementing the standards, however, the board rejected the plan that proposed maintaining continued implementation of the Common Core, as well as another plan that advocated for immediately suspending all activities related to both the Common Core and the state's Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Agenda 'politicized'

Board members agreed that the intentions of the Common Core were well meaning when the standards were initially introduced, but they have grown to become a political topic that stands to limit local control over curriculum models.

"The Common Core I don't think belongs in Germantown. I don't think it's the best thing for our students," board member Brian Medved said. "My biggest problem with it is the agenda that's being driven by Common Core has been politicized, even though it should not be a political issue."

The standards are not mandated by law and the district is not required to adopt them, according to district administration. However, the state's new Smarter Balanced Assessment, which will begin testing students in math and English in 2014, is based upon the model, so students will still be tested in the subject matter.

"I do believe that we would have to appropriately leverage Common Core State Standards, but it should certainly not be our driver," Holmes noted.

The district's development of its own standards will involve not only teachers, board members and administrators, Holmes said, but also parents and other interested community members. Board members voiced support for getting the process started.

"I would really look forward to having that set of Germantown standards because I believe already our teachers excel and hold our students to a higher standard than what's out there," board member Sarah Larson said.

At the recommendation of board member Thomas Barney, the board also agreed it would send a letter to state legislators informing them of their position on the Common Core.

AT A GLANCE

For more information about the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assessment, visit http://commoncore.dpi.wi.gov.

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