FAIRFIELD — No citizen spoke Thursday and the board of trustees didn’t discuss a $4.2 million spending plan for Common Core before unanimously approving the measure.
Fairfield-Suisun School District trustees at their Sept. 10 meeting had reviewed plans for the state funds when the school district staff said $2.1 million would go toward technology such as computer labs, $1.3 million for instructional materials and $750,000 for professional development of teachers.
Jay Speck, Solano County Superintendent of Schools, said before the meeting that funds for Common Core came after a long financial shortfall for education in California.
“After five years of budget cuts the supplemental funds to support the learning of students is long overdue,” Speck said. “This additional funding is an opportunity for districts to not only develop new curriculum that will meet the new standards but will also improve the access of students to powerful educational technology and current materials to assist their learning.”
School districts, he added, can enrich skills of teachers through professional development.
“We all know that the most important aspect of student achievement is the skill of teachers in the classroom and the resources used to support those teachers,” Speck said. “The money from the state, while appreciated, is still woefully inadequate to make up for five years of deep cuts if we expect students to be able to the meet the demands of the 21st century.”
Lance Izumi, senior director of education studies at Pacific Research Institute, a San Francisco-based organization that seeks to advance free-market policy solutions, said Thursday in a phone interview that little public discussion preceded the California Board of Education’s approval of Common Core.
“The information is starting to get out there,” he added of problems with the new standards.
Izumi, who is among speakers at an Oct. 29 event in Fresno County about Common Core, said problems include less focus on great fiction by writers such as Mark Twain and more technical reading. Local control of schools, a long American tradition, will diminish as well with new national standards, he said.
New textbooks, teacher training and technology will be required with Common Core, he added.
“Lots of organizations stand to make a lot of money because of this change,” Izumi said.
A September study about Common Core by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute and co-sponsored by the Pacific Research Institute quotes a teacher’s concern about “cold reading” when students engage a text without any background or context. Common Core’s strategy “forces students to rely exclusively on the text instead of privileging background knowledge, and levels,” the study recounts.
Problems in college readiness stem from an incoherent, less-challenging literature curriculum from the 1960s onward, notes another Pioneer Institute report cited in the study.
Jeannette LaFors, director of equity initiatives for The Education Trust in Oakland, who defended Common Core at a Sept. 25 forum in Vacaville forum, said in a phone interview that school districts already face costs to implement standards even without the new program.
Moreover, free and low-cost materials are available as states work to develop Common Core-related instruction, she said.
The biggest cost is in technology and everyone will benefit by its upgrade, LaFors said.
A conversation has been underway since 2008 about standards, she said of criticism that the public wasn’t informed about Common Core.
“It may be true that some people haven’t been in touch with what’s going on around the development of standards,” LaFors said.
But, she added, the proposals were public.
“The changes didn’t just appear in the dead of night,” LaFors said.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.