State school Superintendent Kirsten Baesler and a Minot High School student told legislators Wednesday about the benefits of Common Core standards.
The two spoke at an Interim Education Funding Committee hearing.
Minot High School senior Chloe Rickards said she endorsed the Common Core standards for English and math, which North Dakota fully implemented in schools this year.
Rickards, whose father is in the Air Force, moved to Minot for her junior year, from Montgomery, Ala.
In Alabama, Rickards had attended an academically rigorous magnet public school. Upon moving to Minot, she said, she felt she was not being challenged the way she had been previously. It’s not that there was a lack of high standards, she said, but that they were not pervasive within the school.
Common Core, she said, would help ensure all students have a rigorous education no matter which state they are in.
“I believe that when education is presented to the students appropriately, students naturally gravitate towards bettering themselves,” she said.
Baesler talked about the Statewide Longitudinal Data System, statewide assessments and the Common Core standards themselves.
She told the legislators that assessments taken by all students — either mandated by state or federal law — include the North Dakota State Assessment, the ACT and the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The 2015 N.D. State Assessment will be aligned to the Common Core standards in English and math since those are the standards being used now by North Dakota schools.
The Statewide Longitudinal Data System was created in 2007 by the Legislature to use and store data about the effectiveness of workforce training and educational programs across the state. The information is volunteered by school districts, which maintain ownership of the data, Baesler said.
The adoption of Common Core didn’t change what assessments would be given or what kind of data would be collected by the SLDS, she said.
Baesler said the Common Core standards were determined to be more rigorous by a group of 60 North Dakota teachers before they were adopted.
Sen. Donald Schaible, R-Mott, said he had messages from parents concerned about the materials being used by Common Core.
Baesler emphasized the difference between standards and curriculum, saying curriculum material is decided by local school districts and teachers while the Common Core is a set of standards that determine broad concepts students should learn, not what curriculum should get them there.
Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, said he also had been hearing from constituents about the Common Core and what is happening with it in other states.
Nathe said he wanted to know if any of the stories he was hearing from those states — of inappropriate materials or invasive data collection — are happening here.
Baesler said she has not heard one complaint about what is happening in North Dakota classrooms that reflects any of those stories and has not heard from any educator who disliked Common Core.
If someone has concerns specific to North Dakota’s implementation of Common Core, Baesler said, she wanted to hear but so far, she said, that has not been the case.
Baesler said she was encouraged the the committee seemed genuinely interested in improving schools and how funding plays a part in that.
Some of the legislators who are very vocal opponents of Common Core are not a part of the committee.
No legislator on the committee seemed opposed to the new standards, although many did ask questions and cited concerned constituents.
Baesler also offered to host forums on the Common Core standards in any legislator’s constituent area to further understanding of the new standards.
“My request to Superintendent Baesler and now to you is simple,” Rickards told the legislators. “Keep it going, but don’t be afraid to challenge us.”