POTTSTOWN PA – A series of nine new mathematics textbooks and accompanying materials that Pottsgrove School District students will use from kindergarten through their senior year was approved for purchase Tuesday (May 14, 2013) at a cost of $309,453 by the Board of School Directors, primarily because it will help the district adhere to new state guidelines on what math concepts must be taught in schools.
But apparently not all lobbying groups at the capitol in Harrisburg – and they are said to include teachers’ unions – support the guidelines, called Common Core Standards. Several, The Pennsylvania Independent online news service reported Tuesday, are actively opposing their July 1 statewide implementation.
The Common Core is touted as a national attempt to ensure that, no matter where they live, students receive and learn the same information deemed to help them succeed in their futures. Pottsgrove has spent more than two years studying and preparing its teachers for the standards and some of the novel ways they will be asked to teach them.
Forty-five states including Pennsylvania “voluntarily signed onto the new standards,” The Independent said. Four others, Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia, refused. And one, Indiana, initially agreed to accept the standards but recently decided to hold off using them.
In Pennsylvania, implementation of the standards “is facing united opposition from teachers unions and tea party groups – two political factions that rarely, if ever, play on the same team,” The Independent’s story said. “Though they have different reasons for opposing … (the) standards and the testing that comes with them, both groups agree that the Common Core represents a new, unfunded mandate” on school districts.
The Independent identified the state’s two largest teacher unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers, as among those that now advocate legislative or executive action to delay launching the standards. The Pottsgrove Education Association, the district teachers’ union, is an affiliate of the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the NEA.
Pottsgrove’s association has not issued any public statement about its position, if any, on the Common Core. Its next general membership meeting is scheduled to be held May 22 (Wednesday) “to discuss many of the issues that have been worked on this year,” its website announced, but it did not specify if the standards will be a conversation topic.
At the state level, arguments against the Common Core focus primarily on what opponents say will be additional costs of standardized testing with Pennsylvania’s new Keystone Exams and non-test assessments; and the perception that federal and state dictates over what will be taught imperils or limits local educational control.
It is unknown what will happen with Pottsgrove’s textbook purchase if Common Core implementation is delayed. District administrators noted Tuesday that teachers are generally prepared for, and some are enthusiastic about, using the new materials. It plans to offer additional training in Common Core Standards before the next academic year begins in September.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ May 14 meeting):