CASTLE ROCK, Colo. – The Douglas County school board has become famous for bucking trends and charting its own unique course.
Over the past few years the board has voted to sever all relations with the district’s teachers union, create a private school voucher program that allows students to leave the district, and to base teacher salaries at least partially on the market value of various positions.
So it should be no surprise that the Douglas County board unanimously approved a resolution Thursday night opposing the implementation of national Common Core math and English standards in their district and across the state.
The school board claims that Common Core violates the constitutional right for Colorado school districts to have broad discretion over learning standards and curriculum, according to a report from EdNewsColorado.com.
Board members also claim the Common Core standards are less academically rigorous than the standards they already employ in their schools.
The Douglas County school board joins a growing chorus of political and education officials throughout the nation who are starting to question Common Core, even though most states – including Colorado – signed on to the initiative in 2010 or 2011. The standards are scheduled to be fully implemented in schools by 2014-15.
The following are the key sections of the board’s resolution:
“Whereas, Colorado is a local control state, where local school boards are constitutionally granted broad discretion in setting curriculum and standards for their students …
“Whereas, Douglas County School District has used that broad local control to pursue world-class education innovations and the most rigorous academic standards anywhere –
innovations and standards that will prepare our students for the demands of the 21st century workplace and global economy …
“Whereas, the Common Core standards, while reasonable and appropriate for many school districts to emulate, are not reasonable or appropriate in Douglas County because our district’s standards are more rigorous, more thorough, and more directly tailored to the unique needs of our students …
“Now, therefore, let it be resolved that the Douglas County School District Board of Education hereby expresses its general opposition to a one-size-fits-all application of the Common Core standards, because local schools districts should retain broad latitude in establishing customized, rigorous and high standards and guidelines for the maximum educational attainment of all students in their specific communities …”
The school board raises some interesting questions when it comes to the imposition of Common Core standards:
What about schools that are satisfied with their current academic programs, and consider them superior to anything Common Core might offer?
Should districts be required to sacrifice or lower their standards to match Common Core? Should the federal or state governments be in the business of forcing local school boards to abandon learning standards that have been working very well in their districts?
This is the type of situation critics worry about when they say Common Core will strip schools of local control.
The folks in Washington, D.C. are always convinced they know what’s best in any given situation. But if a local school district is getting the job done, should it be forced to change?
Perhaps state governments that signed on to Common Core should have insisted on a provision that allows local school districts that can demonstrate outstanding academic track records to bow out of the program.
One-size-fits-all can be a destructive strategy when it forces some participants to slow down or lower their standards. The students of Douglas County are apparently doing just fine under local rule. The folks in Denver and D.C. should respect that fact and leave them alone.