LOUISIVLLE, KY (WAVE) - There are some concerns from Jefferson County Public Schools parents and students as we all await test first scores of the new nationally implemented academic assessment program.
Educators are saying not to worry about the mediocre common core results right now. However, the real shock may not be the low scores, but the low amount of money the school system has to work with.
"The level of rigor had to be raised in order to give our kids equal access to the skills and knowledge they need to be college and career ready," explained Dr. Dewey Hensley, Chief Academic Officer for JCPS.
The raising of this bar is being called the biggest educational shift in history and Kentucky is leading the way. For the first time in history, children across the country are learning the same curriculum at the same time. It is a higher quality education with higher standards.
Principal of Hazelwood Elementary School Tom Peterson, wants everyone to understand, "There were standards but now they're much higher and they needed to be."
More is expected now from everyone in the school system, but they must do it with less.
It is a concern Hensley stresses, "I do worry about the budget cuts that have occurred."
As students face the release of the first test scores since the implementation of the new accountability model, JCPS is going through its own test.
"It's really a bad time to pose a challenge then have fewer resources to meet that challenge", Hensley said.
Teachers, counselors and principals face more rigorous academic content than before. Teachers must also get up to speed to design and facilitate the groundbreaking classroom instruction. This is also new to them.
Hensley said with concern, "Certainly any budget cut like that is very disconcerting."
As a fifth grade math teacher at Hazelwood Elementary, Heather Barnes admitted there is a learning curve for everyone right now.
Barnes said with excitement, "It's a lot of extra study on our part."
It also takes money to help them do their part but the budget has some deep cuts. State funding for books has been cut by 100 percent. Some of the books in the classrooms may be selectively discarded because they do not meet the requirements for common core standards.
Peterson reminded us that textbooks do not teach students. Great teachers do.
"There have been changes. There have been cuts in funding but we have to find a way. I'm confident we can do that. In fact my teachers are doing it," Peterson said almost defiantly.
Teachers are doing it with only a 1 percent raise. Administrators are facing a pay freeze. There will be no raises for principals, guidance counselors and central office administrators. A split in granting one group a pay raise while denying another has not happened since 1992.
"There were some hard decisions made there," Hensley states. The inflection in his voice sounded as if he was trying to convince himself as well as the public.
Cuts were made to the funding of the once protected "SEEK" program, Support Education Excellence in Kentucky. The program provides basic operating money for public school districts. It lost $9.9 million. Since 2008, other state funding cuts have equaled $10.7 million. Family resource centers, extended school services, professional development, textbooks, safe schools, read to achieve and local vocational centers make up the bulk of that list.
"We use dollars wisely," Hensley pushed.
With so few dollars they value each one just as they value each child. Education cost money. It is not a luxury but a responsibility. Making sure each child is able to reach the higher bar while also making sure the educators have what they need to make it happen, is where the focus for this new program is placed.
Hensley had a simple explanation, "When that's the center of the universe, that's where you put your dollars. That's where you put your expertise. That's where you try to support those schools and inside those schools, classrooms and inside those classrooms, teachers. So that they get the opportunity to help kids in the way we need them too."
Another concern for some, Common Core Standards does not mandate cursive handwriting. Some school districts in the nation will write it out of the curriculum. However, states are free to continue a cursive requirement. The age-old writing method is being replaced by the more modern key-boarding for computers.
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