Kittery school district needs more time to meet Common Core standards
KITTERY, Maine — Traip Academy teachers are ready to undertake a new way of teaching this year’s incoming freshman class, but the school department needs a little more time before it can be implemented throughout the system.
That was the message imparted to the Kittery School Department this week by Superintendent Allyn Hutton, as the department prepares to implement new proficiency-based Common Core standards required by the state.
Under Common Core, students are expected to be proficient in all aspects of a subject before passing it. Under the current model, grades are averaged so that a student may not fully understand a subject but receives a passing grade anyway.
Common Core standards are being implemented throughout the United States, including Maine.
Hutton said the Maine Department of Education expected proficiency based education to be instituted completely for the Class of 2018 — this year’s incoming freshmen — but has given departments the option to seek a two-year extension to 2020 for full implementation.
Hutton on Tuesday asked the School Committee for permission to seek this extension.
“While we have made some progress, I could not in good conscience tell the state department we’re ready to go,” Hutton said. “My research tells me that there is not a school system in the state that is ready to do this.”
But she also stressed that this year’s freshmen are going to be taught under the proficiency based standards. She said that this week, Traip teachers have been meeting to develop all freshmen courses through the Common Core method.
She said Traip is ahead of many high schools in the state because the School Committee adopted a Traip Academy education redesign several years ago. Some courses are already proficiency based as a result.
Committee member Kim Bedard said she was a little concerned about the extension for that reason.
“We were in the forefront, and we were going to be ahead of everyone and we were going to be bold, and now we’re going to be taking a two-year extension,” she said.
Hutton said the School Department is still ahead of many in the state. “We have many pieces in place, but they (the state) are requiring us to provide them with a lot of detailed information that we don’t have lined up yet,” she said.
Several School Committee members wondered how these standards were going to be implemented for students with special needs, and Hutton agreed that is a subject of debate.
“The state has said all students regardless of special needs have to meet the standards, and attorneys are saying that (requirement) will not stand up to the federal special education law,” she said. “Everyone is waiting for a school district to file a lawsuit and see what happens, and I am not raising my hand to do that.”
Overall, however, said committee member Julie Dow, the school district is finally moving in the right direction.
“This is what the committee talked about and what was promised to the community, so I’m excited,” she said. “This is a huge change and we want to do it well.”