The rumor that a national school reform effort moving through Madison would wipe out treasured class electives at West High School has been buzzing in that community for years.
Parents and students got a chance to bring their concerns about the implementation of Common Core standards to the top Thursday evening, during a conversation with new Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, held in the school library after her day-long visit to West High.
It was the second in a series of four public meetings being held at the city’s public high schools this spring to allow Cheatham, who started work in the district on April 1, to hear community concerns.
Cheatham told the crowd of 150 or more that she had heard a lot that day from students and staff about the “amazing potpourri” of elective courses at West.
“They think they are a major asset of the school. I think so too,” she said.
West High School’s elective courses are so popular among students that speculation the Common Core standards would be their death knell fueled a sit-in of some 500 students in fall 2010, the year the state adopted the standards. Today, many of Madison’s public schools are still figuring out a way to incorporate the standards, about which confusion reigns among students, parents and teachers.
Lynn Glueck, a school improvement coordinator at Memorial High School, said this week that Common Core focuses on developing key skills needed for college and career readiness. The standards related to English language arts, for example, are about “close reading, critical thinking and argumentative writing where students pull evidence out of the text,” Glueck said.
In the instances where Common Core has been used at Memorial, which some say is leading the district in implementing the standards, “students are really engaging in it,” she said.