A resolution asking the state legislature to reduce the negative factor and return funding to Jeffco Schools passed unanimously at the Aug. 28 Jeffco School Board meeting. A second resolution asking the legislature to delay implementation of the PARCC assessment (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) was tabled on a 3-2 vote.
Both resolutions had been added to the board’s May 1 agenda by board member Julie Williams, but postponed due to other pressing issues at the May and June meetings.
The negative factor resolution passed easily after a short amount of discussion. Board member Jill Fellman requested that the resolution modify the phrase “reduce the negative factor” to “remove the negative factor,” but board secretary John Newkirk said he would not accept the friendly amendment.
Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt also said he did not support eliminating the negative factor. He said he only wanted it reduced so the state has flexibility to balance the budget.
The second resolution called on the state legislature to “delay and reexamine the implementation of PARCC assessments.” The board heard from Michael Brickman, National Policy Director at the Fordham Institute, Sandra Stotsky, a professor at the University of Arkansas who served on the Common Core Validation Committee, and Chris Watney, president and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign spoke to the board about the PARCC assessments and about the Common Core Standards.
Although the resolution was about PARCC, much of the discussion centered on the standards themselves. Colorado uses the Colorado Academic Standards, which incorporate the Common Core standards and also include “unique aspects of the Colorado Academic Standards, such as personal financial literacy, 21st century skills, prepared graduate competencies, and preschool expectations,” according to the Colorado Department of Education.
Williams asked Brickman to comment on several concerns she had about Common Core. “I know that they have a copyright on the Common Core standards so that doesn’t allow teachers to deviate or eliminate any of the content. They are only allowed to add 15 percent of creativity into their classroom,” Williams said. “And also, when we adopted the PARCC tests, didn’t the state sign off on some of our children’s privacy in a longitudinal database that is set up in 50 towers across the country?”
“I think those are certainly some of the things national groups have been putting out and frankly, putting a lot of money behind across the country and unfortunately, they’re false,” Brickman said. Brickman pointed out that data privacy was a concern before Common Core and will continue to be an issue after Common Core. He also clarified that individualized student data is not provided to the federal government.
In response to Williams’ copyright question, Brickman said the only reason it had been copyrighted was to keep someone else from claiming credit and making money off it. He said states are free to change the standards, and pointed to Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina where changes have been made to the standards as proof.
During the discussion, Stotsky repeatedly pointed to Massachusetts state standards as a better model than the Common Core standards. Stotsky said the thought the standards should be higher and better than the Common Core standards.
Watney said her organization also supported the standards because they helped provide continuity in academic expectations between school districts and because the emphasis on career and college readiness benefits students. Brickman also supported the Colorado Academic Standards, which he organization rated more highly than Colorado's previous standards.
Fellman and Dahlkemper said they had both heard a lot of concern from the community that we are overtesting students. Dahlkemper said she wanted to look into broader issues, and that she wanted board members to consider a resolution she had introduced about the use of balanced assessments.
Both Fellman and Dahlkemper repeatedly pointed out that the Jeffco School Board still has local control over curriculum, regardless of the standards, and that standards and curriculum are not the same thing. Newkirk voiced his concerns about federal intrusion. Earlier in the discussion he had asked whether Common Core and PARCC had “monopolistic” elements.
Witt said he didn’t know as much as he should need to know about the assessments and Jeffco’s assessment strategy. He made a motion to table the resolution and schedule an October study session to have a more in-depth discussion.
“I believe that we’ve already had enough research done on PARCC testing and Common Core,” Williams said. “I believe we’ve done enough study. We need to take action.”
Dahlkemper, Fellman and Witt voted to table the motion, while Williams and Newkirk voted against it. Newkirk said he voted against tabling the motion out of respect for Williams, stating she had already waited long enough for this discussion.
Earlier, nine speakers from the Lakewood, Littleton and Evergreen, voiced their opposition to Common Core. Several were part of a group, and said they were opposed Common Core and the tests because it was government intrusion and an unfunded mandate.
Speaker Carol Baum of Lakewood told board members she was opposed to the PARCC tests. “It creates high stakes and social profiling,” she told board members. “Allow students to have their teachers back in the classrooms to teach, not prep for testing or being constantly evaluated by the new teacher evaluation models.”
A $3 million purchase request for Chromebooks was also pulled off the consent agenda for discussion that evening. Witt said that he wanted to know how the request was waiting to need rather than desire, and where the equipment was being used.
Chief Academic Officer Syna Morgan told board members that Chromebooks had different uses. Some are used on carts where they can be taken to different classrooms in a school. Others are intended for one-to-one initiatives in which individual students use them for projects, research and more.
Within the classroom, Morgan said, they are used to access digital curriculum and for collaborative learning. In each school, the purchase of Chromebooks or other technology devices is tied to educational outcomes, she said.
Earlier during public comment, Dan Brooks, a Jeffco parent and teacher-librarian at Evergreen High School spoke in favor of the purchase. Brooks told the board that Chromebooks had become the “device of choice” that students requested when they came to the library to do research.
“The Chromebook is the biggest game changer I’ve seen because it’s so simple,” Brooks said. “It saves money. We can buy three Chromebooks for the price of one laptop (rounding, obviously). We can buy two Chromebooks for the price of one iPad. … We’ve calculated that approximately 90 percent of what we ask our high-achieving AP, honors…kids to do can be done on a Chromebook.”
Brett Miller, Jeffco Schools Chief Technology Officer, told board members that the requested amount would allow the district to purchase approximately 10,000 Chromebooks and a one-year contract.
Witt said he wanted to hear from the district’s Technology and Data Privacy Advisory Committee before approving the full purchase. Fellman suggested that the board move to approve a purchase of 3,500 Chromebooks now, and wait to hear from the TDPAC before purchasing more. The motion passed on a unanimous vote.