By Rosemary K. Otzman
“I don’t know if this is something this board wants to fall on its sword over,” said Keystone Academy attorney LaRae G. Munk at the Nov. 14 meeting of the school board as board members discussed their apprehensions over the Core Curriculum.
“If we don’t adopt this, we can be looking for a charter,” Munk said.
Munk said every ten years educators look at education and decide changes are needed, so she is sure the Core Curriculum they don’t like will go away.
“Thank God it’s only a moving target,” Munk said, noting, “We change every ten years.”
Munk said, “We liked what we saw eight years ago,” referring to National Heritage Academies. “If they still have their core values, OK. If not, we need to get a different management company.”
The board was told if they didn’t pass the motion required by Bay Mills Community College which issued the Keystone charter, the college could pull the charter. Then, Keystone would have to shut down for a year before getting a charter from some other entity.
After much discussion, the board voted unanimously to “Amend the charter contract with Bay Mills Community College to accept the new educational goals presented by Bay Mills as target goals for the Academy and to amend the curriculum to include changes necessary to prepare students for the new assessments and standards in Language Arts and Math.”
In September, when the board first considered the request by Bay Mills to adopt the Core Curriculum resolution, it balked and decided to ask for a representative of National Heritage Academies to come out and talk to them about it.
On Nov. 14, Jennifer Perkins, an NHA representative, gave a presentation on Common Core, assuring Keystone board members that “Common Core is the destination and how we get there is up to the schools.”
She said there is a fear that the government or the state will tell schools what to do.
She said as far as informational text, it is supposed to be 55% in the eighth grade and 70% in the 12th grade. But great literature and poetry still will be taught, Perkins said. She said the percentages are for the whole day, including science.
She stressed the control is still left to the teachers, to the boards.
Perkins said the curriculum team at the NHA Service Center took time to compare the NHA and the Common Core and she presented a thick sheaf of documents comparing “Depth of Knowledge.”
She said 80% of NHA is already fitting into Common Core and they only have to change 20%.
Perkins said schools and teachers will decide what to read. She stressed that the Common Core standards are not a curriculum, but shows how to teach it.
Board President Vesta Losen asked who was vetting the textbooks.
Perkins said NHA had an entire team and other professionals studying the texts produced by Pearson and McGraw Hill.
Losen said Pearson has the most Common Core texts. She asked if they actually read the textbooks and Perkins said they had.
Losen said she was not concerned about how lessons were taught, but what the children are going to learn. She said she had concerns. She noted Common Core was a product of Race to the Top, a product of No Child Left Behind, which are all failures.
Munk said Keystone was not the only school that hasn’t signed the amendment.
The Bay Mills representative said Keystone is #8 of its 42 schools academically.
He said Keystone’s fall test scores are as good as at the end of the last school year, so everything he sees is above the school’s trajectory.
In other business at the Nov. 14 meeting, the board:
• Heard Plante Moran had issued a clean opinion on the 2012-13 audit report;
• Learned there are 784 students enrolled and 291 on the waiting list;
• Learned NHA is looking at expanding Keystone Academy by adding a classroom for each grade. Keystone has the most evenly distributed wait lists of the NHA schools, so this is being considered. They just plan to add on to the present building. “We have the wait list, the demand is there,” said Chris Caulk of NHA. Bay Mills has a maximum for its charter of 804 students so there will have to be a discussion with Bay Mills. This will happen next summer, if it happens at all, Caulk said, with it ready for the 2015-6 school year;
• Heard Losen say the $2,000 that Keystone got for its Eagle Award from NHA for being in the top 5% of the schools academically has been deposited, but she would like to see it used as a college scholarship of some kind for former Keystone students. She suggested awarding it to a student who grew in moral focus and was outstanding in moral focus in the community, since the top academic students get bombarded with scholarships. She said they could add next year’s Eagle Award to the scholarship money. She asked board members to think about it.
By Rosemary K. Otzman