Rigor, relevance and results are the new 3 R's of education.

By Carol Bronson


At nearly every Board of Education meeting since he was hired as curriculum director for USD 382 last summer, David Schmidt has discussed the district's transition to Common Core standards, or, as they are known in Kansas, College and Career Ready standards. He did so again Monday night, days after opponents attempted to block adoption of the standards in the state.

On the last day of the 2013 session, The Kansas Senate approved a bill to prevent the Kansas State Board of Education from spending any money on implementation. The bill was defeated in the House by a 58-55 vote.

The Pratt district has already purchased textbooks based on Common Core, according to finance director Glen Davis, and he estimated that at least 95 percent of districts were also preparing for new standards.

Opponents of the standards, adopted by 45 states, view them as a nationalization of public education and a loss of local control.

"The standards are a measure of where we want students to be," Schmidt said. "How we get them there is up to teachers and districts."

He drew on his experience as a track coach — coaches and athletes know the height of the opening bar in the high jump. They know it will be raised in each round, but nobody tells a coach how to prepare his athletes to clear the next height.

No Child Left Behind standards focused on districts making AYP, or adequate yearly progress, as measured by standardized assessments. AYP is not necessarily about student learning, but about their ability to answer a question right at the right time.

The new standards focus on the three Rs education — rigor, relevance and results.

He gave some examples of how the bar will be raised when the standards are fully implemented.

High school juniors should be reading college-level texts. Fourth and fifth graders will be asked to do what is currently asked of seventh graders. Third graders will be able to do a small research project. Sixth graders will be expected to produce three typed pages of text. At the high school level, math students might be asked to compare costs and benefits of high and low deductibles on insurance policies..

Superintendents from across the state gathered in Topeka Tuesday to show support for the Common Core standards. They attended the Kansas State Board of Education meeting to support the national math and English standards, and to say the Education Board, not the Legislature, should be in charge of curriculum standards.

Three teachers were present at Monday's meeting to discuss how they have increased the rigor of their classes, made them more relevant, and shared some results.

Rose Beilman and Larry Kahmeyer talked about honors English classes that provide additional enhancement to students who are placed in them on the basis of eighth grade writing samples and recommendations of teachers.

Students read more books, complete lengthy writing assignments, do more research and incorporate technology in project-based learning.

The classes are designed to be more challenging, with homework and a higher quality of work expected. An A grade in a regular English class would be a B in an honors English class, Beilman said.

In her English III honors class, students liked the ACT preparation and found the attention to grammar, punctuation and mechanics of writing helpful. They liked summer reading requirements less well. About 14-20 students participate, and numbers have declined somewhat since the classes were first offered in 2011.

The number of students participating in jump-start math classes has increased. Sixty students signed up for the voluntary two-week program last year, and enrollment as of June 1 was 77 for this year's August classes. The focus is on learning, not grades, said Rita Phillippi. The best thing about the program is that when she teaches the content during the school year, students say, "oh, I remember that."

The Board of Education approved a 25-cent increase in elementary lunch fees and left other lunch prices at the previous level.

Financial data showed a per meal loss of 77 cents for lunches and a gain of 50 cents for each breakfast. Eighty-one percent of students participated in meal programs in September of 2012 and declined each month to 70 percent in May. Participation has increased since 2003-04, when 69 percent of students ate school lunch in September.

Student fees that, in most cases, decrease the charge for textbooks and increase the technology fees, were approved.

Personnel changes were approved as follows:

Alyssa Catron replaced Crystal Kohman as PHS assistant girls basketball coach.

Bill Patterson resigned as PHS social studies teacher and was replaced by Todd Cossman, who will also be assistant football and girls' basketball coach.

David Ross was hired for driver education and Shelby Nesbit replaces Sandi Armstrong as LMS assistant track coach. Gina Talkington resigned from food service.