FARMINGTON — Educators statewide expressed concern Tuesday about proposed national standards for kindergarten through 12th grade which are too vague or too rigid but don’t provide teachers with guidance on what students need to know at certain grade levels.
The first forum in the state on the national standards, referred to as Common Core, was held at the Northwest Arkansas Education Cooperative for 120 educators, some from as far away as Helena-West Helena. The event was sponsored by the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform.
The standards address math and English language arts for all grade levels.
Arkansas has endorsed the idea of common standards to ensure that all students — regardless of where they live or attend school — are taught a common national and world knowledge to compete in the 21st century global economy, said Sandra Stosky, professor of education who moderated the event.
Common Core, currently in draft form, is a joint project of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Julie Johnson Thompson, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Education, said the project has been endorsed by the state, which will recommend adoption of the national standards to the Arkansas Board of Education.
The final draft could come in late May or during the summer months, said Gayle Potter, director of curriculum, assessment and research for the state education department.
“This is a time for change and a time for opportunity,” Potter said, cautioning the educators not to fear the change that will come to Arkansas education when national standards are adopted.
“All kinds of things are on the horizon, good things for our children,” Potter said.
Jimma Holder, a literacy coach in the Mena School District, said one of her biggest concerns was the lack of comprehension strategies in the proposed standards.
“National standards are good and necessary,” she said. “I’m concerned about some gaps, such as comprehension strategies.”
Good readers naturally visualize, ask questions and make connections with what they are reading. Other students don’t, she said.
“We have to teach them,” she added.
Kathy Heagwood, teacher center coordinator of the DeQueen/Mena Education Cooperative, said her concern centered on the lack of technology addressed in the standards.
Schools need to be involved in moving students toward 2020 with technology as an integral part of that education, Heagwood said.
Sandra Taylor, the kindergarten through 12th grade literacy coordinator in the Fayetteville School District, said the standards, as they are currently written, are too broad with too much room for differing interpretations. That will make it hard for teachers without further refinement.
Recommendations from Tuesday’s meeting will be refined by university doctoral students and forwarded to the state education department.
More information on the Common Core standards, including the latest draft issued in March, is available at: