Mary Scott Hunter of the Alabama Board of Education spoke for about an hour and a half to a small audience at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce this afternoon about Alabama College and Career Ready Initiative. The program, which is Alabama’s adopted version of Common Core standards approved in all but four U.S. states, has attracted the ire of some conservative groups who believe the standards bring federal control over local schools.
State Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, who organized the meeting, said the purpose today was to clear misinformation about Common Core standards, specifically their alleged ties to the federal government. At the end of the meeting, he said the goal was met partially.
“I think we cleared up some of them,” he said about misconceptions. “I think we’re all in agreement we need the best education possible for our students so they can compete at the highest level possible. Government control is a separate issue.”
Marsh said he doesn’t believe the standards have federal ties, but said he still planned to talk further with groups concerned about the matter.
Hunter didn’t get far in her planned presentation today before being asked a series of questions about what bodies controlled local school curriculum. Members of the audience questioned asked her whether the state standards took curriculum decisions away from local teachers and limited advanced education opportunities for some students to accommodate all.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation that this is some government conspiracy, and it’s not,” Hunter said. “Some have misinterpreted this as a ceiling, but it’s a floor.”
Hunter said the standards are a level that students are expected to meet, but curriculum is still up to local school boards to decide what strategies work best for their students.
A common recurring question for Hunter was why the state had felt the need to adopt the Common Core standards instead of implementing its own.
“It isn’t so much that Alabama went wrong, it’s just we came to a standstill,” Hunter said. “While other states moved on, we stayed put.”
Hunter said most of the standards adopted were designed to add academic rigor to Alabama public schools that have fallen behind.
Members of the Talladega Republican Party who came to the meeting, however, took issue with the standards’ ties to national Common Core standards written by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, suggesting the standards represented a federally sanctioned curriculum for Alabama schools.
Hunter denied any connection, and said Alabama’s standards were unique and had been adopted by the state Board of Education. At one point she repeatedly asked Danny Hubbard, the chairman of the Talladega County Republican Party, to specifically name state standards he disagreed with.
“Not just the standards, not the people who wrote the standards, what standards do you not agree with?” she asked. “The real question is, ‘Are the standards good?’”
Hunter challenged some in the audience to read the standards on the Alabama Department of Education’s website to see that politics were not involved in deciding school curriculum.
Before adjourning, Marsh thanked the audience for their support and said he hoped to schedule further meetings to discuss the Alabama College and Career Ready Initiative.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.