Common Core standards prompt concerns

A Marietta Middle School teacher expressed his concerns about the Common Core curriculum standards to the Marietta City Board of Education Monday.

“The direction of education, from what I’m seeing, what I’m reading, is terrifying,” said Steve Parlin, a language arts teacher at the middle school who said he was speaking first as a parent and member of the community. “I’m only just now realizing how much is really at stake here.”

Addressing the board during its regular meeting Monday at the district administration building, Parlin said he wanted to spark a discussion about the standards, adopted by Ohio and 44 other states in connection with federal Race to the Top funding.

They are seen by some as a watering down of educational standards and a federal intrusion into the realm of public education. But proponents say the standards simply align what is expected of students at each grade level and do not limit how teachers and schools structure their curricula.

“You guys are no longer a decision-making authority; you’re an enforcement authority,” Parlin told the board.

Examples of his reservations over the standards included “developmentally inappropriate requirements” for younger students in math while also leaving out areas like pre-calculus; data-mining, the collection of excessive personal information on students and families; and an over-reliance on testing that he said puts undue pressure on students.

“It just felt like we were treating kids more like data sets than kids,” Parlin said.

Last week, Parlin testified before the Ohio House of Representatives’ Education Committee as it considered House Bill 237. The bill, introduced by Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, would void any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core, under which Ohio schools officially started operating this year.

Parlin said he’d had misgivings about the standards before, but did not speak out in part because he felt the policy was being steamrolled into effect. But as his own children got closer to school age, he felt the need to do more.

“We’ve decided to home school our children,” he said.

Parlin offered to give the board a copy of his testimony before the House Education Committee, which members said they would appreciate.

Middle school Principal and acting superintendent Will Hampton said he doesn’t believe at this time that Common Core restricts local decisions on curriculum, but he looks forward to discussing Parlin’s concerns with him.

“You can always learn from talking,” Hampton said.

Ruth Kunze, director of curriculum and technology for the district, agreed discussion is important, but noted the district is obligated to work under the Common Core framework.

“Right now it’s the law that we follow those standards,” she said.

In other business:

Building and grounds committee member Bill Hutchinson said the remaining components for Marietta High School’s security upgrade should be installed over Christmas break so that doors can remain locked and students remain under one roof throughout the school day.

A nearly $600,000 renovation that included an addition on the Colegate Drive side of the school and an enclosed walkway between the gym/auditorium facility and the main building was largely done over the summer, but work has continued into the start of the school year.

Board President Greg Gault said Superintendent Harry Fleming continues to recover from injuries sustained in a fall last month and is in regular communication with Hampton.

“He’s chomping at the bit to get back,” Gault said.