Academic standards don’t add up

A quality public education is something in which we all have an interest, whether because we have children in school, are paying school property taxes, or perhaps own a local business that hires area residents.

That being said, many people have stopped me in the street, called or emailed my district office wanting further clarification on Pennsylvania’s academic standards and if they are controlled or influenced by the national Common Core standards being talked about in the news.

First of all, let me assure you that in Pennsylvania, curriculum and most other education decisions are completely controlled by our local school boards and school officials.

The national Common Core standards are simply an outline to try and make sure schools across the country are all meeting at least a basic set of goals when it comes to English and mathematics.

Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of misinformation about Common Core standards in general, coupled with people confusing what other states are doing versus what is happening in Pennsylvania.

Because of this confusion and outcry from the public to distance ourselves from what is known as the Common Core standards, the Pennsylvania state House earlier this summer unanimously approved House Resolution 338, of which I was one of the primary sponsors.

That resolution expressed specific concerns heard from our constituents on a range of topics generated by the Common Core national debate.

As a result, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and State Board of Education are making the following changes:

– The name of the standards will be changed to “PA Core Standards” reflecting that the standards are adapted to the commonwealth’s needs and shaped by Pennsylvania educators.

– The standards are specifically applicable only to public schools, with private, religious, and home school communities being exempt.

– There will be no national tests or assessments, except if one is deemed necessary for special education students, and then, only in consultation with parents, teachers and other interested parties.

– Expanded data collection will not occur due to implementation of the standards.

– There will be no required reading lists and curriculum will remain strictly a local decision by our school boards.

These changes are expected to be officially adopted in September.

Whenever it comes to our children’s education, we are passionate and want to be very involved. I applaud everyone who has demonstrated an interest in this issue.

It is unfortunate that so much misinformation surrounds this issue, but I am hopeful these changes will help clear up some of the concerns parents may have had.

Rep. Jerry Stern (R-Blair) has served in the state House since 1992.