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EGR Superintendent Says Lawmakers Operating on Misconceptions

For Sara Shubel, the Michigan Legislature’s defunding of the Common Core Curriculum Standards is frustrating on two levels.

As superintendent of East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Shubel wonders where the vote leaves her district, in terms of what student achievement standards the state now will expect it to meet, along with how to measure them.

And as former president of the world’s largest educational association, she knows how much work went into formulating the standards designed to raise and deepen the learning expectations of U.S. students.

The nonprofit ASCD was involved early on helping to develop the standards and provide resources for schools to meet them. Shubel was president in 2010-11, when the standards were rolled out and Michigan became one of 45 states to adopt them.

On both levels, Shubel sees legislators opposing the program based on misconceptions and without input from educators.

“I’m really disappointed, because I think inaccurate information has been shared about what the Common Core standards are,” Shubel said. “It leads people to create their own reality. That’s hard to un-spin.”

Despite legislators’ promises to hold further hearings, Shubel doubts funding will be restored. Many lawmakers erroneously believe the standards dictate local curriculum and teaching methods, she said.

“They don’t want the facts to get in the way of their decisions,” Shubel said. “It’s getting to be a little frustrating.”

Plenty of input already

Shubel also said she doesn’t understand why legislators say more hearings are needed when hearings already were held in 2010.

“For our representatives now to say there wasn’t opportunity for input is false,” she added. “There was a lot of opportunity.”

She knows the standards intimately from her six years on the board of ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ASCD is an endorsing partner of Common Core, and received a $3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide training and materials to help districts implement the standards. ASCD members also have helped develop the Smarter Balanced assessment tests aligned with Common Core.

Putting the standards into practice is a “daunting task” for school districts, Shubel said. ASCD has worked to help administrators and teachers understand them and develop curriculum to meet them. The intent of the standards never has been to impose certain practices on schools, she said.

“There’s the belief if these [standards] are in place, then elementary ‘A’ and teacher ‘Y’ can’t do ‘X.’ That’s wrong. Each teacher in their classroom is going to deliver that instruction a little differently, but just the standards are going to be the same.”

She wishes opponents would talk to educators about what the standards really mean, instead of “making their decision in isolation.”

“I’m baffled as to why they feel that these are so horrible,” she added.


For more information on ASCD visit their website

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers series and issues stories for all districts. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio


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