A Meramec Valley-RIII educator says parents’ concerns about the impact of the new Common Core standards being transitioned into Missouri schools are unfounded and may be simply a reaction to comments by people from states with less experience in maintaining standards.

“Missouri always had good standards,” said Terri Parks, assistant superintendent. “That’s why Missouri was asked to be on of the governing states in creating the Common Core Standards.”

Speaking at the Sept. 18 school board meeting, Parks offered a PowerPoint presentation of what led up to the current transition to Common Core.

Tim Richardson, school board president, asked for a public discussion at the September meeting after a district patron and parent, Debbie Wiersma, raised questions about Common Core at the August meeting.

Wiersma said in August that she was concerned that the responsibility for curriculum was being taken out of the hands of teachers.

Parks offered a 10-minute presentation that went through the history of Meramec Valley’s curriculum establishment based on the required DESE standards.

Drawing a clear distinction between standards and curriculum, Parks said standards tell educators what students are expected to learn at each grade level. The district then establishes its curriculum to reach those standards.

“In the past, we aligned our curriculum to grade level expectations (GLE),” Parks said. “Now we align them to the Common Core standards.”

Grade level expectations told educators what students should know at each grade level. Curriculum was developed from that, she explained.

The latest Missouri School Improvement Program, known as MSIP 5, requires local school boards to direct staff to implement, review and revise policies that guarantee a viable curriculum.

Some people seem to confuse the new Common Core standards with school district curriculum, which causes them concern.

“We use (Common Core) standards for alignment,” Parks said. “We understand that all standard documents are copyrighted. We use them to write our own local curriculum that we ask the school board to approve.”

What educators formerly described as reading and writing, she said, Common Core asks educators to look at as speaking and listening.

The new standards also call for a 50-50 balance between literature and informational text.

In the past, students became proficient in writing narratives, but the new standard asks them to focus on writing arguments that support their personal position on a topic.

Changes in math call for more focus on problem solving.

Parks said after hearing fears from parents about the Common Core standards, she plans to present her PowerPoint to PTO officers and other focus groups.

Superintendent Randy George concluded the program, assuring school board members and administrators in the audience that he would never recommend anything that would allow the district to lose local control of curriculum.