RPB Education Committee Plans Common Core Presentation

The Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board decided Monday to add a presentation on Florida’s new Common Core State Standards program to a future meeting to give concerned individuals accurate information.

Board members also discussed widespread concerns about low third-grade reading levels.

Vice Chair David Kendle attended a school board meeting Sept.18 where the Common Core curriculum and low third-grade reading levels were discussed.

Kendle said that many parents spoke at the meeting, mostly against Common Core, and he said that he believes the standards and where they originated have not been explained.

“I think it would do parents justice if [the school district explains] that and put it out there, how it started and where it came from, and it didn’t come from Washington,” Kendle said. “I think if we did that, parents wouldn’t be so frightened of Common Core.”

Board Member Renata Espinoza, principal at the Academy for Positive Learning charter school, said she attended a recent conference intended to help elementary teachers get their students to proper reading level. “There’s a lot of money spent at that, but it’s worth it, and research shows students improve at least a year’s [level],” Espinoza said. “Hopefully, this will help our third-grade teachers.”

Councilman Jeff Hmara, liaison to the Education Advisory Board, said he learned from working with the Palm Beach County Literacy Coalition that third grade is a critical point for maintaining reading competency.

“From that point on, studies have shown, it becomes more and more difficult for students stay up with the academic requirements,” he said. “Kids who aren’t able to read at level by third grade are likely to have greater difficulty as each year progresses from that point forward.”

Hmara also suggested that Common Core be placed on a future agenda for a comprehensive discussion before the board and the public in an appropriate fashion, and Kendle agreed.

“Parents do need some information, and hopefully we can get a lot of parents out to listen,” Kendle said. “Maybe we could let the principals know and see if they could help getting parents out.”

Hmara said an open forum might be beneficial as long as it did not become a debate.

“There are going to be ample opportunities for other public hearings to get more information,” he said, adding that the school district has comprehensive Common Core information on its web site at www.palmbeachschools.org. “It’s a good information tutorial on what Common Core is and where it came from. I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t looked at that to become informed on Common Core, and also on how the state is approaching its implementation.”

The goal of the new curriculum is to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help, according to the school district web site. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that today’s young people need for success in college and careers.

School Board Member Marcia Andrews said a state representative was in the area last week at the invitation of State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo and made a presentation to about 60 parents in Wellington using an effective PowerPoint presentation that originated from the state.

The state also has a web site for people to learn more about Common Core and to post their concerns or suggestions at www.fldoe.org/schools/ccc.asp.

“One of the things I’d like to recommend to the advisory board is that we make sure that you get the PowerPoint with the web site, so that maybe you could display it on your web site so that parents could read it,” Andrews said. “It was real simple to understand.”

Andrews said differences of opinions are to be expected, but having a good understanding of the program would reduce the conflict.

“One of the answers the state gave was that it was on the web site early on, way before we got to where we are now, but most people don’t know that,” Andrews said. “The state is trying to go around to all the areas to do the personal, one-on-one explanations with the PowerPoint presentation, but we do have a web site right now.”