Last updated: August 26. 2014 4:16PM - 435 Views
By Adam Beam Associated Press

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VERSAILLES (AP) — Kentucky’s top education official unveiled a website on Monday designed to solicit anonymous feedback on the state’s Common Core education standards.

“But don’t tell us it is a Communist conspiracy to take over education by the federal government,” Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told the crowd at Woodford County High School. “Tell us what’s wrong with the standard and how to fix it.”

Kentucky’s state leaders adopted its state standards for English and math in 2010 and implemented them in 2011 with little fanfare. But the standards, based on the Common Core state standards initiative, have since become a flashpoint in national politics representing to some the overreach of the federal government in educating the nation’s children.

The standards were created by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Most states voluntarily adopted the standards. But the federal government angered many when it began tying grant money to whether a state had adopted the standards.

Kentucky was the first state in the country to adopt the English and math standards, and Holliday said it is the first state in the country to offer this type of feedback website.

“The national opinion has made Common Core state standards a polarizing term, and we’re seeing that in Kentucky, too,” Holliday said. “What we need to do is change the conversation from us vs. them to focusing on the standards themselves.”

Holliday said the process is not a referendum on the standards and noted the department would ignore complaints that don’t contain suggestions for improving the standards.

The website, kentucky.statestandards.org , will be taking comments through April 30, 2015. It asks if you live in Kentucky and whether you are a teacher, parent or other interested party. Teachers don’t have to say what district they teach in and no one has to give an email address unless he or she wants to.

The site allows people to view the hundreds of education standards for each grade level, including this one or students in kindergarten: “With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.”

People can click a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” icon for each standard, similar to Facebook’s popular “like” button. They can click a box saying the standard is in the wrong grade level. Or they can rewrite the standard themselves, including any documentation they have as to why the standard is wrong.

“We’re not as interested in somebody just saying, ‘We don’t like this standard, get rid of it,’ as we are in people providing a rationale for why it is not working,” said Karen Kidwell, director of the division of program standards or the Kentucky Department of Education.

Holliday said he hopes teachers, parents and professors of first-year college students will take the “Kentucky core Academic Standards Challenge” to give leaders feedback they can use to determine how to change the standards next year.

“In higher ed, we are going to talk about how can we get these standards to be more rigorous to a degree, or at least more appropriate,” said Aaron Thompson, executive vice president and chief academic officer for the Council on Postsecondary Education.

The website only lists English and math standards and does not include the Next Generation Science Standards, which Kentucky has adopted but not yet implemented. Those standards have prompted opposition over the teaching of evolution and global warming.

State Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, has been critical of Common Core in the past. But he praised the state’s new website on Monday as a way to challenge people to actually read the standards.

“To be able to be critical of them, you’ve got to have knowledge of them,” he said. “If there are standards that do need to be updated or changed, this forum will be a good way for that process to start.”

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