CRYSTAL LAKE – A spirited crowd filled a McHenry County College auditorium Wednesday night for the Common Core Summit, a debate-style forum that featured strong opinions for and against the new education standards.
Hosted by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, the forum’s intent was to paint a clearer picture of what the future holds, Hultgren said during his opening remarks.
The Common Core learning standards were adopted in Illinois in 2010 and are to be fully implemented by next school year. Governors and state education commissioners from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia committed in 2009 to developing a common core of English and math standards for students.
“We need to better understand what our state is undertaking and whether we should continue with it or take a step back ... and reassess our options,” Hultgren said.
The new standards replace Illinois standards written in 1997. Forty-six states have committed to implementing the Common Core standards, which proponents say will lead to higher student achievement.
Illinois Deputy Superintendent Susie Morrison echoed that belief Wednesday night, speaking before the debate portion of the night began. She said the state board implemented the change “because they believed it was an opportunity to improve the opportunities and outcomes of our young people.”
But Erin Raasch, who garnered the loudest cheers of the night, said the public was left in the dark during the process.
Raasch founded the website stopcommoncoreillinois.org after inquiring why her child, a special-needs student who attends public school, wasn’t working on skills like penmanship and spelling. Raasch said she was told that the skills are “not emphasized in the core curriculum.”
Bob Bowdon, executive director of the education reform news service Choice Media, said the issue with the Common Core is that government has had its hands in from the start.
“Standards can make sense. They can help our lives,” Bowdon said. “The problem is when it’s a top-down standard.”
That point was disputed by Mike Petrilli, a writer and education analyst, who said the Common Core standards were built as a reflection of the standard needed to succeed after high school.
Petrilli serves as executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which rates standards of learning. He said the old Illinois standards came in at a D, whereas new Common Core standards for math and English rate at the A and B range, respectively.